“Gone Girl” is directed by David Fincher (“The Game,” 1997) and written by Gillian Flynn, based on Flynn’s own bestselling novel. The psychological drama-thriller centers around the disappearance of Amy Dunn (Rosamund Pike; “The Big Year,” 2011) on the fifth anniversary of her marriage with Nick (Ben Affleck; “Argo,” 2012). Thrust into the media spotlight by her celebrity status, he slowly realizes the media and the cops seem to have turned to him as a person of interest. As he tries to find clues with his sister Margot (Carrie Coon; HBO’s “The Leftovers,” 2014-2017), Nick realizes he’s being set up.
There couldn’t have been a better director to work on the adaptation of Flynn’s “Gone Girl” than Fincher. Keeping in context his experience in envelope-pushing films like “Seven,” “Zodiac,” and “Fight Club,” it almost looks like he and the source were made for each other. Teaming up with Flynn—who makes her screenwriting debut with the film—the director successfully weaves a dynamic film language with multiple immersive image systems. Considering the novel experimented with verisimilitude versus reality, using the unreliable narrator as a device, it only made sense to do this.
Each perspective is treated with varied differences onscreen. There’s a soft romanticization to Amy’s recollection of events through her journal, filled with warm yellow tones and slow motion. In stark contrast, you see the crushed blues of Nick’s present, indicating a possible existential crisis and misery. But the most efficient weapon Fincher and Flynn use within the narrative of the first half of “Gone Girl” is the lull. While the direction is accomplished, the film’s storytelling seems to have zero issues heading to predictable “Blue Valentine” territory. Affleck and Pike’s electrifying chemistry only allows viewers to slip further into complacency.
This is actually a feature, not a bug. The makers want you to relax—maybe even curse under your breath—and feel like you’re in control until they rudely pull the rug off your feet. A variety of twists and turns follow and get progressively darker until every single modicum of decorum is crossed. Flynn’s screenwriting in “Gone Girl” may or may not be due to her extensive knowledge of her own novel, but she’s got a solid grasp on narrative flow that doesn’t let go for a second. And this is where Fincher steps in.
With the help of his regular cinematographer Jeff Cronenweth (“The Social Network,” 2010), the director creates a distinct visual look and feel using every frame’s real-estate efficiently. The style is stylish and deliciously dark, but the real champion is the obsessive focus on framing. It’s almost as if every subject and object in focus—and out of it—has more to tell than words can explain. Outside of the story-building shots, the gleaming cityscapes and intimate suburbs create a picture-perfect postcard that somehow beautifully complements the insanity of the people living in them.
“Gone Girl” is the perfect example of an unrelentingly dark and destructive psychological thriller that’s as horrifying as it is timely in its commentary. From the “Cool Girl” monologue to the exploration of the devastating effects of unrealistic parental expectations, there’s enough to unpack for days. And with Fincher and Flynn coming together with the source material, it’s insane how well it balances different tones to tell its chilling story of the human psyche in a failing marriage.
The film boasts excellent performances by Affleck and Pike. They’re not the only terrific actors, though. There’s a variety of incredible supporting turns from Coon, Neil Patrick Harris (television’s “How I Met Your Mother”), and—wildly—Tyler f@#cking Perry (the “Madea” series). The fact that it’s well-acted only enhances the immersion, turning a potentially good drama-thriller into an unstoppably gripping piece of awesome.
The fact that a major film studio backed something this relentlessly wild deserves respect. “Gone Girl” is one of the best, ballsiest movies this year and a must-watch while still on the big screen.