Review: Gone Girl

While reading Gillian Flynn’s masterful suspense novel over the summer, one thought was on my mind: “How on Earth are they going to turn this into a movie?”  Books are made into films all the time, but this particular novel was unlike any I had ever read before. But once I knew that David Fincher was behind the camera of this film, I knew the final result would be a gripping one. Oscar-nominated director David Fincher has brought to life some of the most memorable films of the past decade on the big screen. With “Zodiac,” “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” “The Social Network” and 2011’s “The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo” on his resume, I knew “Gone Girl” would be in good hands.

“Gone Girl” was a dark, sometimes unsettling film to sit through, but the heart-pounding suspense and layered lead characters made the viewing beyond worth it.

It’s a seemingly normal day in early July when Nick Dunn (Ben Affleck) leaves his suburban Missouri home for the day. But when he returns, he finds his front door open, living room furniture flipped over and broken and his wife Amy (Rosamund Pike) missing. As the search for her begins and escalates, the audience is taken down a black hole of dark satire, social commentary and intriguing mystery where no one can be trusted and every character is questionably, even Nick himself. When a mystery labels Nick as a wife killer,Nick and his sister Margot (Carrie Coon) have to fight to prove his innocence even while the evidence continues to pile onto him.

The fact that this is a faithful adaptation shouldn’t be surprising considering the book’s author, Gillian Flynn, also wrote the screenplay and handled her own material with care and fan service. As someone who has read the book, watching the film felt like a new experience, even with the same story, all over again. It’s one thing to read it, it’s another to see it, and Fincher’s stylish direction and suspenseful timing elevate the story in ways that make it memorable.

Fincher can also be counted on to get career-defining performances out of his actors. It’s no secret that Ben Affleck hasn’t been a favorite in the eyes of the media throughout his career, but if “Argo” was a game-changer for his directing career, then “Gone Girl” is one for his acting side. This is the best performance I’ve ever seen Affleck give, showing he can juggle layers and feelings all within one character. Two other surprises in the cast include Tyler Perry as the comic relief lawyer and Neil Patrick Harris as Amy’s high school boyfriend who may or may not have something to do with her disappearance. Both actors, who are known for comedy, are put to a test of suspense and nail these roles down tight.

But the true standout is Rosamond Pike, who delivers one of the most chillingly complex character studies I’ve seen on the screen in quite sometime. Choosing to trust her as the narrator of the story could either lead the audience to the truth or to a pit of lies, and this ride is what keeps things so interesting and suspenseful throughout the movie.

While not every character is as fleshed out as much as they could be, the two leads are the ones who are most fascinating to watch. This is a story about who people are behind closed doors and what they are willing to do to themselves and to each other to keep up appearances.

“Gone Girl” has a lot to say about the media and how it will spin and sensationalize a story in any direction it pleases just to sell headlines. This isn’t news to anyone with a TV or computer, but seeing how screwed up a story can become and what people will believe without hearing all sides is pretty frightening. Reporters pick apart Nick’s every move, tossing him in whatever direction best suits their story, and he doesn’t have much of a defense other than his lawyer’s plan of action.

The addition of Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross’s layered and creepy soundtrack sets the tone right away, making the viewer feel on edge from the start. Much like their work on “The Social Network” and “The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo,” they create music that’s never overbearing, but instead works like a breeze brushing past your face and gives you internal feelings of intensity. I love it when Fincher and these composers work together because their visual and sound styles are a perfect on-screen pairing.

“Gone Girl” will twist your emotions and challenge them in ways that will make you feel uncomfortable, but in the best way possible. It’s a film that leaves just as many questions as it does answers, which is something I love about the art of film. A film shouldn’t just be a one-and-done experience, but one that you carry with you and think about for days, weeks, even months after it’s over. “Gone Girl” is one of the best films of 2014 and one that will be imprinted in my brain for a very long time.