Terror, First Class

Gone Girl

An Illusion Review by Joan Ellis


           

            Gone Girl is a sublime manipulation. Just go see it and enjoy being the target of a grand gang of filmmakers who are trying to make sure you are chilled and wary as you leave the theater to walk in the dark to your car. They succeed on every level.
            How do they do it? From the first frame forward we are fastened completely on newlyweds Nick (Ben Affleck) and Amy Dunne (Rosamund Pike). On the day of their fifth anniversary, Amy disappears, leaving only a floor covered with shattered glass. Because she had been the inspiration for a successful series of children’s books, her disappearance triggers the kind of invasive media circus that surrounds so many scandals in the contemporary celebrity culture.
            Detective Rhonda Boney (Kim Dickens in a consistently convincing performance) is determined to answer the big question: did Nick Dunne kill his wife? That search unfolds in a clever series of twists and turns that leave us riveted and often baffled as to the real nature of every character. Our curiosity about Nick and Amy grows. Who are they as individuals? Who are they as a couple?
            Author Gillian Flynn presents the viewpoint of each through the primal questions of marriage: what are you thinking? What are you feeling? How much do marriage partners keep deeply buried? How do the things they don’t say fester in the silence and then morph into marital damage?
            We cringe at the awful sight of the immediate media convulsion outside the Dunne’s house. As the photographers, TV stations, and the merely curious gather in brutal scrutiny of every rumor about Nick and Amy, a crowd mentality seeds itself, often switching sides with each revelation. So do we in the audience, but we’re more dignified.
            The great success of this thriller springs from the inspired collaboration of director David Fincher (The Social Network) and author Gillian Flynn who wrote both the novel and the screenplay. Fincher is an expert at directing discord, betrayal, and surprise and Flynn is obviously enthralled by the prospect of devising the shocking twists that knock viewers off balance every time they think they have something figured out.
            How to cast a story with a good vs. evil – let’s say monstrous – theme? With the exception of Ben Affleck who is excellent as one of the two question marks, they made wise choices by opting for lesser known faces whose familiarity wouldn’t be distracting. Rosamund Pike is terrific as she executes one after another of writer Flynn’s clever shocks. Carrie Coon creates Nick’s sister Margo as a smart, loyal woman torn by revelations. Tyler Perry's Tanner Bolt, Nick's lawyer, delivers some of the best lines in the picture with welcome humor. And if Neil Patrick Harris doesn’t terrify you, you’ve lost your compass.
            Script, direction, and performances have turned the suspense of a normal thriller into a contemporary emotional tangle that resonates in today’s culture. Gone Girl makes Alfred Hitchcock look like kindergarten.

 


Film Critic : JOAN ELLIS
Film Title : Gone Girl
Word count : 499
Distributor : 20th Century Fox
Running time : 2:29
Rating : R

 


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