Gone Girl is part of what I like to call "David Fincher One-offs". There are those Fincher films that are timeless, layered and taut masterworks, like Seven, Fight Club and Zodiac, which become more rewarding with each consecutive viewing as I find more and more details to enjoy within their intricate constructions.
Then there are those plot-heavy thriller/mysteries that are viscerally involving and exciting during the first viewing, but do not necessarily warrant a revisit afterwards, no matter how expertly executed each one of them may be.
Some of the Fincher One-offs I thoroughly enjoyed yet I never really found to be inviting for more after the many twists and turns in the story were already revealed are The Game and Panic Room. The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo could have counted if I already hadn’t seen the original Swedish version, which is extremely similar in story and tone.
However, my lack of desire in seeing Gone Girl again doesn’t mean that it’s an ineffective or mediocre experience. There’s only one word that comes to mind when thinking about Fincher’s execution of Gillian Flynn’s bestselling novel and screenplay adaptation, and that word is Meticulous. Gone Girl is a meticulously devised thriller without any fat as it doles out the story’s many twists and turns at breakneck speed.
Fincher’s take on the source material, which takes so many chances with its characters that it borderlines on farce, especially during the third act, always maintains credibility as a drama/thriller while also being wickedly entertaining.
Kudos to the film’s marketing, which refused to show any plot details beyond the first act while managing to build suspense and expectation around the product. It’s near impossible to write a detailed review of Gone Girl without heading into heavy spoiler territory.
Everything those of us previously uninitiated with the novel know about the story through trailers and marketing, that a struggling writer named Nick’s (Ben Affleck) wife Amy (Rosamund Pike) goes missing and he gradually becomes a suspect in the case, are all shattered and replaced by entirely new conflicts and circumstances for the characters before we even get to the halfway point.
So if you haven’t read the book, my advice is to go in cold and enjoy the clever, mischievous and sometimes insane story with as little knowledge about it as possible. However, Gone Girl is not strictly about the mystery, as there are some clever and sometimes understated satirical jabs at the media and how the public’s opinion on any person or story can be easily and viciously manipulated. A scene where a sleazy lawyer (A perfectly cast Tyler Perry, take that how you will) prepares Nick before an interview with a Nancy Grace-type as if he’s getting him ready for the senior high school play is priceless. However, regardless of these thematic touches, the plot always takes center stage in Gone Girl.
The performances are uniformly excellent (Yes, including Tyler Perry). Especially during the first act, it’s hard to get a handle on Nick’s true motivations behind the case, thanks to Ben Affleck’s delightfully duplicitous take on the character. Kim Dickens from the HBO show Treme gives a breakthrough performance as a detective who has a healthy penchant for skepticism.
Yet it’s Rosamund Pike, who’s been showing considerable promise for more than a decade, who provides a star-making turn. I can’t dissect the way she expertly constructs her character without giving away crucial plot details, all I can say is that she easily deserves at least an Oscar nomination.
Especially via his use of editing and music, Fincher creates a cold an uneasy feeling inside the audience from the first second and doesn’t let go until the very end. The sudden fades between a majority of scenes, a trick used cleverly during the opening credits as well, imparts a sense of ambiguity, as if we will never truly know the whole truth behind the story. Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross’ relentlessly cold and mechanical score, reminiscent of music from RPS games from the late 90s (Final Fantasy: Gone Girl Edition), underlines some characters’ viciously meticulous and narcissistic true natures.
Even though it isn’t necessarily another Fincher masterpiece, Gone Girl is a thriller that’s definitely worth your time.