Monday, 3 October 2016

Gone Girl (2014) (Review)


Gone Girl gripped the world like very few adult-skewing books have ever done before. Gillian Flynn's thriller became a spectacular critical and commerical success and before it had left the number one position on the New York Times Best Seller List (eight weeks!), had already been greenlit for a film adaptation. Flynn's screenplay enticed celebrated director David Fincher to the project, along with Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike in the leading roles. On October 3rd 2014, the film opened and again experienced immense success in almost every sense of the world. Exactly two years later and just days before the Gone Girl-inspired 'The Girl on the Train' hits cinemas, I take a look back at why the film has, and always will be, one of my favourite films ever made.

Following Amy Dunne's (Pike) disappearance, Nick Dunne (Affleck) has the world looking at him and he very quickly becomes the primary suspect in the case of his missing wife. Concerning itself with themes of twisted media coverage, dishonest and disloyalty, feminism and misogynistic tendencies, societal expectations and roles by building itself on a web of lies and unreliable narrators - twists and turns - Gone Girl cooked itself up to be a thrilling psychological thriller mystery and delivered on every single level.

As a narrative, Gone Girl is a consistently strong and engaging story that centres two well-crafted characters; but what really allows it to excel is the complex themes interwoven throughout the narrative, that ensures audiences are continually on their toes, unsure who to trust, how deep the lies have been spinning and, of course, the central mystery - what happened to Amy Elliot Dunne? Unfurling at a steady rate that keeps audience's guessing, the deliberately slower pace births one of the biggest cinematic twists in years. However, even after this reveal, it continues to successfully blur the lines between cold reality and lucid illusions, creating a genuine sense of unpredictability and the audience rarely know where the story is going. Many films tear through their source material in a sprint for the end goal, but Gone Girl takes it time to craft an absorbing and enthralling 149 minute run and that plays as one of the film's biggest strengths.

This engrossing story is further carried by the excellent cast, both of whom are excellently played by Pike and Affleck. The former plays 'Amazing Amy' with such conviction and certitude, offering a restricted performance when needed to demonstrate the icy villanelle beneath Amy's warmer exterior.  In a career-defining performance, she delivers some of the films standout moments and monologues and captures Amy's complex mindframe pitch perfectly, and more than easily justifies her Oscar nominee two ceremonies ago. Affleck is solid as well, but mainly works to serve Pike turn as Amy; still, he captures the downfall of a man in the media spotlight well and creates an uneasy sense of trust as required for the central premise. Another importance player is, of course, director David Fincher, whose stylish direction brings depth and beauty to the horrid perception of American life and society that the film paints for us, demonstrating his talent, skill and precision as a director in crafting a dark, yet stunning aesthetic in his best film to date. Some of the moment, if handled by other directors, could fail the landing, but Fincher's lingering camera notions, close-up reaction shots and ability to make the film come full circle, makes him the best man for the complex job.

Further encapsulating the darkness of the picture, it is all tied together fantastically by the astounding soundtrack score from Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, which adds to the uneasy tone of Gone Girl, manipulating scenes just as Amy does throughout the novel and film. Coupled with sharp and witty dialogue from Flynn, who returns as screenwriter and adapting her own material, that allows the film to unpack gradually, making genuinely thought-provoking and divisive material that captures audiences' hearts and minds; its exactly what this past summer needed - smart, intelligence, adult-skewing drama with equal thrills, visuals and method behind the madness. Maybe that will change when The Girl on the Train pulls into theatres in a few days time (although a little too late for the summer season has passed). Gone Girl is a film I truly struggle to criticise the film and to do so, I have to truly nitpick through the layers that are otherwise crafted to perfection: but my one and only issue is how quickly the film plays its hand, with it being possible to keep both audiences and key players in the dark for longer. This, however, is incredibly minor and is an otherwise perfectly-paced film that is really worth your time.

Gone Girl, even after multiple views, is a film that continues to surprise, whether through the detail employed by Fincher, the sensational performances from the two leads or the underlying tones beneath the surface level of the film. Years after its release, it continues to strike a chord with audiences due to the thought-provoking content and multitude of themes to be discovered in Fincher's masterclass. It has the ability to make audiences laugh, cry, wince and gasp - sometimes in the space of one minute. Dark, subverting, stylish, deceitful, thrilling and brutally captivating, Gone Girl remains one of the best films of the 21st century.

(10/10)

Summary: Gone Girl is a masterclass in making smart and compelling entertainment, with an incredible cast, stylish direction and a narrative that engages from the first shot to the final one. Dark, suspenseful and thought-provoking, this deeply-affecting film is a difficult one to shake off.

Highlight: Cannot pinpoint. I just love this film.

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