Plot (from IMDB): With his wife’s disappearance having become the focus of an intense media circus, a man sees the spotlight turned on him when it’s suspected that he may not be innocent.
Ah, mystery. Whether it be the investigation of a murder, a damsel in distress, or an affair that sours and goes horrifically wrong mystery, if done the right way, can be a very compelling piece of work. Add in elements of psychological thriller and a sultry femme fatale that feels lifted right out of Hollywood’s Golden Age and you get one hell of a potent combination.
That explanation, and the phrase “potent combination”, I think personally sums up the very core of this film perfectly. “Gone Girl”, the latest film from masterful thriller director David Fincher, is a complicated scheme of a movie, in the most positive of ways.
Gillian Flynn wrote the screenplay to this film which, in my opinion, was the best idea imaginable because, let’s face it, who’s the best person to adapt a novel or story to the big screen than the original writer of the story, seeing as they’d know the story best. I’ve never gotten around to reading the novel as of yet, however I will say this is probably a pretty-near flawless adaptation of the novel, because as I’ve said who better to adapt than the original author? That being said, I think Flynn’s screenplay is one of the best, most well-written screenplays of 2014. The film’s run-time clocks in at just under two-and-a-half hours, however the film never feels forced, never bores, and always keeps the viewer engaged and guessing till the bitter end. While the pacing is slow in parts, I think it adds perfectly to the tension and drama, but then it speeds up like a runaway train rearing down the tracks at thrilling speed when all the dark plot twists and turns come crashing into the viewer. This is psychological thriller writing at its very best, I mean you have every element of fantastic storytelling present here; the cunning and sultry femme fatale, the morally ambiguous (or so it may seem) everyman searching for answers, the psychotic stalker ex-boyfriend, obsession and desire, police procedural investigations and tension, and many silently lurid moments that keep a gripping encapsulation on the viewer.
The film was directed by David Fincher, whose original style of taut density and flair for bringing out the finest, if not most disturbing, performances from every member of his casts. He’s absolutely perfect to direct a film of this caliber not only because of his almost-Hitchcockian way of creating palpable intensity, but also he’s proven himself to be one of the most original, brilliant directors to come out within the past 25 years, if not one of the finest directors of all time. Fincher has the knack for utilizing one of the best modern cinematographers out there today, Jeff Cronenweth. Cronenweth, however, is no stranger to Fincher’s work – having shot the brilliant cinematography for three of his other works: “Fight Club”, “The Social Network”, and his 2011 remake of “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo”. Cronenweth has a very imposing sense of lighting and shadowing that I think perfectly embodies this type of story, adding a little something extra that most modern films like this do not possess. The police investigation sequences – particularly the ones shot at nighttime, in my personal opinion, are some of his finest shot work because of the way he utilizes a dark color palate and expressive shadows that perfectly emit a looming sense of danger and paranoia. His father, famed cinematographer Jordan Cronenweth, who framed arguably one of the greatest films of all time (“Blade Runner”) would be very proud of his achievements and how accomplished of a cinematographer he is. This, in my opinion, is David Fincher’s third best film, just slightly behind his flawless “Fight Club” adaptation, and “The Social Network” at number one, which is one of the finest made films in a very long time.
The original score was composed by the well-matched team of Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, who use dark ambient tones and sparse notes of noise that creates this disturbing false sense of hope and joyful disposition that perfectly compliment the gloomy, pitch black tone of the film. Not their finest achieved score, which in my opinion was their Oscar-winning score to “The Social Network”, but it was still however a exceptionally adept piece of work.
Now onto the rant portion of my review. Ben Affleck. What is everyone’s humongous problem with Ben Affleck? Sure, he’s made some questionable movie choices, but are death threats really necessary? No, that’s just plain stupid – plenty of actors have had bad film rolls or gave bad performances, even some of the finest actors like Nicolas Cage in “Rage”, Bradley Cooper in “The Hangover Part III”, Richard Burton in the insufferably dull political drama “The Comedians”, Matt Dillon in “Deuces Wild” – those are just a few of the many examples. Ben is not alone in this, people. Personally, I think he was the best actor suited for the role of Nick Dunne because he has this almost calm aura of the typically normal everyman. His quietly gripping performance, which was massively underrated I might add, reminded me somewhat of James Stewart’s legendary performance in “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance” because, like Ransom Stoddard, Nick Dunne was this average, everyday man who was caught up in a heated situation he had to fight his way out of or die trying, in Dunne’s case though metaphorically speaking of course. But perhaps the finest piece of this film was Rosamund Pike’s incandescent Oscar-nominated performance as Amy Dunne. If anyone out of every great performance this last year deserved to be nominated at the very least, it was Pike for sure. Her performance had all these wonderful elements to it; she had the sultry sizzle of Kathleen Turner in “Body Heat”, the haunting beauty and style of Tippi Hedren in “Marnie”, and the dark mysteriousness of Gene Tierney in “Laura”. It was truly a movie lovers dream, and seeing as the plot and tones of the film reminded me greatly of “Laura”, it works flawlessly! And with Neil Patrick Harris’ performance as Desi Collings, was anyone reading this reminded of Jennifer Jason Leigh’s character Hedy Carlson and her performance from “Single White Female”? You know, pretty on the outside, but a very complexly hidden sociopath on the inside? Whether you, the reader, sees that or not, I thought Harris’ performance was terrifically macabre, one of the most underrated performances of the year. Heading up the supporting cast with some very fine performances are Carrie Coon as Nick’s twin sister Margo (and practically his only supporter), Tyler Perry as Tanner Bolt, Nick’s very casually misogynistic defense lawyer, and Patrick Fugit as Officer James Gilpin, one of the leading police officers working on Amy’s disappearance case.
In conclusion, David Fincher’s hyper brilliant masterpiece is like a beautiful patchwork quilt: many of the components remind me yearningly of noir films, psychological dramas, and Classic Hollywood, and all of the elements of the film sew together and fit faultlessly as a whole. In my opinion, this is Fincher’s third best film, but admittedly it’s his best shot and best framed one, thanks to master cinematographer Jeff Cronenweth.
My Rating: a mint 10/10
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