He’s only made 10 films in 20 years. This means that every time director David Fincher steps behind the lens, it’s an event. He’s a certified auteur, a man who brings his particularly brazen vision to every endeavor. For his adaptation of Gone Girl, ex-Entertainment Weekly writer Gillian Flynn’s bestselling potboiler, Fincher indulges in a kind of greatest hits revisionism. Playing perfectly to his strengths with almost none of his minor weaknesses, this brilliant thriller is one of the best mainstream movies of the year. While it wrestles with bigger ideas within its subtext, it never forgets the main purpose behind the genre — to keep audiences members on the edge of their seats and guessing until the final frame.
Ben Affleck stars as Nick Dunne. He is married to Amy (an amazing Rosamund Pike) and, by all accounts, their relationship is good. But all is actually not well in the Dunne household. She resents being brought back to the Midwest from Manhattan. He’s barely holding onto the bar he now owns with his sister Margo (Carrie Coon). Then, on their fifth wedding anniversary, Amy simply disappears. Foul play is suspected, and Nick is immediately the prime suspect. The press have a field day with a story, while the police (Patrick Fugit, Kim Dickens) hound Nick’s every move. Eventually, he hires a hotshot lawyer (Tyler Perry) while an old boyfriend of Amy’s, Desi (Neil Patrick Harris), may hold some answers.
Gone Girl is that rare adaptation destined to make even avid fans of the book experience the material in a whole new light. Fincher, who remains one of the best directors of his generation, knows how to handle such a dark, twisted tale, and his collaboration with cinematographer Jeff Cronenweth is exceptional. This is an angular movie, filled with sharp edges, deep shadows, and hidden agendas. We sense the mood and atmosphere in every single scene. This isn’t the broad spectrum of daylight where everything is visible and viable. Instead, Fincher fills the frame with secrets, asking us to bear witness to what’s going on and draw conclusions that the script (by Flynn herself) hopes to upend.
Then there’s the acting. Fincher always casts well, and Gone Girl is no exception. Ben Affleck as our sudden media uber-subject is pitch perfect as the man not wholly unaccustomed to the spotlight. His reactions once the media swarms are both dead-on and defiant. He’s not about to play their games and yet consistently falls right into the 24 hour news cycle trap. Equally impressive is newcomer Carrie Coon. As Nick’s sister, she’s illuminating, adding subtext we didn’t know existed just by her reactions and readings. As the detectives trying to find Amy, Fugit and Dickens make an unlikely but effective team. As he does with all his police procedurals, Fincher finds the truth in even the most arcane methodology.
But Gone Girl belongs to Rosamund Pike, a British actress who is required to play both sides of the film female stereotype, and she soars. When she’s kind and gentile, we completely buy it. When she’s cunning and conniving, we are equally convinced. Our reaction to Amy is what makes Gone Girl such a stellar experience. At first, we want to believe her. Then we want to blame Nick. But as he does with all his films, Fincher finds layers within layers, and upon each reveal, our entire notion of what’s going on here changes. Yes, the book offers a big “twist” which turns everything onto itself, but Gone Girl the movie is not about the “gotcha.” Instead, Fincher hypnotizes us, the eventual denouements (there’s a couple here) shocking us because they seem organic to everything that’s happening.
As he does each time he steps up to make a movie, David Fincher truly delivers the goods with Gone Girl. It’s a smart, modern thriller with enough quirks and eccentricities to remind you of how satisfying a film made by a true visionary can be.
The DVD includes a commentary track and a hard copy of an Amazing Amy children’s book.