Director David Fincher has a real knack for throwing expectations on their head. His resume is full of films that quite easily could have been wincingly bad – Brad Pitt playing a child with progeria syndrome, a Facebook biopic, Brad Pitt (again) playing a men’s fighting club instigator. Directed anything but perfectly, these films would undoubtedly have been shockers, but given the Fincher treatment we are able to throw our cynicism into the wind and marvel at his ability to churn out hit after hit. ‘Gone Girl’ is no exception to this. Based on Gillian Flynn’s New York Times bestseller of the same name, it’s yet another perfectly directed film that avoids the cliche of book-to-film by burying you in layer upon layer of deceit, misdirection and carefully woven in social commentary – all while remaining just faithful enough to the book’s storyline .
Fincher’s protagonists Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck) and Amy Dunne (Rosamond Pike) are a married couple who have moved from New York to Misourri to be closer to Nick’s unwell father. When we see them meet at at a Manhattan soiree, so acquainted are they with the norms of romantic chitter chatter, that we already feel the potential for disaster ahead. At this point, Fincher cranks up the volume on Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross’ very brilliant score making their words almost inaudible. We don’t need to hear what they’re saying. We know how this bit goes.
Both journalists, the recession has done its worst and finds both Nick and Amy out of a job. With the couple both reacting very differently to unemployment, the trouble-in-apparent-paradise marriage seems predictable at first, but fear not – this is the beginning of Fincher’s process to wind you round his directorial little finger before metaphorically flinging you against the wall and back again. Clearly a study of the fibres of a modern relationship, the shiny pretension is unravelled as their lives lurch away from both their – and Amy’s overly present parent’s – expectations.
When Amy disappears, Nick is very quickly hurled into the media circus, assumption central and rumour mill all at the same time. Motives remain uncomfortably unclear, making it very hard to ‘take sides’, leaving you flailing for any kind of logic and explanation. References to Nick’s ‘hotness’ can feel distracting in the context, but this is all part and parcel of the fact this film is a brilliantly pointed satire of modern media, and how it inspires and encourages snap judgements, transient emotion and partially formed truths.
Reminiscent of Alan Parker’s 2003 thriller ‘Life of David Gale’ in its genius storytelling, with a comparable level of tension we endured in Affleck’s ‘Argo’, topped off with the ‘page turning’ brio of Fincher’s ‘Social Network’ – this film is no walk in the park. Highly enjoyable and highly exhausting, this is going to be box office gold.
4 out of 5
Not a breakthrough film in the artistic sense, but Affleck’s performance and the water tight directing from Fincher make this a very exciting start to the long awaited awards season. Don’t feel the need to read the book first.