Best-selling novel comes to screen with creepy, cold precision
Starring Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike
Directed by David Fincher
One of the most anticipated movies of the year opens with a close-up shot of Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck) running the blonde hair of his wife, Amy (Rosamund Pike) through his fingers and musing, “What are you thinking? What are you feeling? What have we done to each other?”
Those three questions set the stage for almost everything else that follows, as director David Fincher brings author Gillian Flynn’s wildly successful 2009 best-seller, a shocking mystery sizzler about one marriage’s dark descent into mayhem and madness, to the screen.
Gone Girl begins with Amy’s disappearance, on the morning of her and Nick’s fifth wedding anniversary, in what looks like a home invasion and abduction. But was it? Nick quickly becomes the prime suspect, clues begin to pile up, suspicions mount, secrets are revealed—and things start to feel like they’re not what they seem to be.
Fincher unspools the mystery with the same cool narrative precision he demonstrated in Fight Club, The Social Network and The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. He toggles back and forth between past and present, and presents he-said/she-said versions of Nick and Amy’s story through flashbacks and cutaways to Amy writing in her journal—which later becomes a key piece of evidence, and another strand in the plot’s tangled web.
The casting is first-rate. Affleck adeptly balances Nick’s jock-ish “homecoming king” likeability with the deep, troubling doubts that swirl around his character and his motives. Although she’s appeared in numerous other movies, this is absolutely Pike’s breakthrough; Amy is a complex, complicated character, one that you’ll remember long after the movie is over—and so will, in all likelihood, voters for next year’s Academy Awards. Tyler Perry is terrific as the big-city, top-dollar defense attorney Nick hires to take his case. TV and Broadway actress Carrie Coon brings both heat and heart to the role of Nick’s twin sister, drawn into the vortex of small-town news gone national. Neil Patrick Harris and Scoot McNairy appear as two of Amy’s old flames, both of whom may have gotten a little too close to the fire. Sela Ward and Missi Pyle play TV mavens who fan the media feeding frenzy.
The tone of the movie—the look, the pace and the music (by Nine Inch Nails front man Trent Reznor) mirrors the material: Dark, creepy, ominous, unsettling, cold. If you’re one of the six million people who’ve read Flynn’s book, you’ll know where everything’s headed (mostly) before it gets there. But if you haven’t, you’ll be swept away in the masterfully crafted brew of mind-bending misdirection, outright lies, psychotic scheming, and detailed criminal procedural that will keep you guessing right up until the end.
This isn’t a snuggle-up movie by a long shot, and its bleak view of marriage—and what might be going on beneath its seemingly placid surface—won’t send date-night couples home feeling warm and fuzzy. In an early scene, Nick and his sister play an old board game from their childhood, The Game of Life, as they discuss Nick’s upcoming anniversary—which, as he’s about to discover, won’t play out quite the way he’s planned.
In Gone Girl’s game of life, there aren’t any winners, only players playing each other in a toxic, brilliantly twisted endurance match from which no one emerges unscathed.
-Neil Pond, Parade & American Profile magazines