Thriller Killer? – ★★★★½
David Fincher’s ninth major feature is an adaptation of the Gillian Flynn novel Gone Girl. It’s a story of a married couple who are torn apart one morning when she – Rosamund Pike’s Amy Dunne – disappears, leaving him – Ben Affleck’s Nick Dunne – as the primary suspect.
At first, things are set up to leave Nick looking very suspicious altogether. He is vilified by the media and, despite the lack of a body, we’re led to believe that Missouri’s death penalty is a-comin’. But everything may not be as clear-cut as it seems for this supposed wife-killer, with a massive about-turn in the middle of the film where the two timelines of present day and flashback are upended as a whole new plot point reveals itself.
Affleck is perfectly cast as his blank face suits the role perfectly, it’s hard to come up with another actor who could play it as straight and cool as him. Pike is superb and has a lot more to do in the film than you would think and ends up with some of the film’s most memorable images (think Carrie).
There’s a brilliant supporting cast in place. Alongside the big stars of Affleck and Pike are Carrie Coon (playing his sister Margo), her parents played by David Clennon and Lisa Banes, her dumb friend played by SNL alumni Casey Wilson and Neil Patrick Harris as a victim of a failed teenage romance – completely with dream Barney Stinson lake house. It’s also nice to see Tyler Perry dressing as a man, and excelling, in his part as the showy lawyer Tanner Bolt. There’s also a strong female detective (think Fargo but less laughs) played by Kim Dickens and her side-man played 100% for laughs played by Patrick Fugit, yes he of Almost Famous fame.
As with any film adaptation of a novel, your experience in the cinema will differ greatly depending on your awareness of the source novel. Unlike a lot of people, I haven’t read the best-selling book and meant I quickly warmed to the black comedy that it really is. Fincher clearly knows that his audience aren’t expecting to go into a film about a missing woman and end up with laughing, nodding and smiling throughout, and so he has some real fun manipulating viewers.
The nods to Hitchcock are wonderful. The cool, sexy blonde who knows a lot more than we are being told. The dumb middle-aged, middle America husband who is a little out of his depth before getting on tops of things. The twists and turns as the finger of guilt and audience sympathies sways wildly around the place.
Flynn wrote the screenplay from her novel and has crafted a script that manages to make marriage seem like something that disguises more and more about your plus one as the years go by, rather than revealing all. To misquote the famous line from the Mills Brothers standard – “You always hurt the ones you’re meant to love“.
This is thrilling, playful, smart film-making that hooks you in from the first scenes right up until the satisfying (by way of delightful and farcical!) final act.