This is a tricky film to talk about. Let me start by saying that Gone Girl is an excellent film and shows David Fincher to still be one of the all time greats at constructing thrillers but a major part of a film relates to a mid-film twist. Whilst I will try not to spoil the twist in this review, I may end up revealing more than I mean to when I talk about why I found the film so good. As a result, consider this your spoiler warning.
The plot concerns Nick and Amy Dunne, a married couple living in rural Missouri. On their fifth anniversary, Amy goes missing in what looks like an abduction and a search starts to find Amy. Over time, people start to suspect that Nick had something to do with Amy’s disappearance. During this, we see glimpses of Nick and Amy’s marriage, through a journal written by Amy, going from their happy early days with the marriage breaking down over time, especially after the recession when Nick and Amy lose their jobs and they have to move to Missouri to care for Nick’s mum, with Amy starting to feel scared of Nick. And that is where I will stop, anything else will end up spoiling the film. One of the things I love about the film is how effectively it subverts the whole situation of family life. On the surface, and in the initial media coverage, Nick and Amy are a happy couple but if we look underneath we see that they should not be together and that they are a couple who should get a divorce but don’t because of how it would look. It goes into detail about how people rush into these situations based on the idealised thoughts without thinking about the bad days that will come around and how some couples cannot handle these days. There is also a great deal of satire towards the media, showing how news companies will dissect everything to find a story, from them saying that Nick smiling at the initial press conference makes him a sociopath to hinting of an incestuous relationship between Nick and his twin sister, it shows just how deplorable the media is at a time when they should be focused on the facts. This subversion of institutions goes towards the law as well through the character of Tanner Bolt, a defense attorney specialising in representing men accused of killing their wives, showing how lawyers can enable guilty individuals to avoid conviction for the money, although I can’t go into more detail about this without spoiling the film. This also goes to the preconceptions that the police can have about crimes and how this can lead to the police being biased against someone before any evidence is presented. Now there is one last thing I want to address and that is the accusations of sexism leveled towards this film. I personally don’t think that the film is sexist (although to say why I don’t think this will spoil the film), although I can very easily see it being used by sexists as a sort of rallying cry and this will lead to an unfortunate reputation for the film down the road. This won’t affect my review of the overall quality of the film but it is something that will happen in the future.
The performances are another aspect of the film I can’t go fully into detail about for fear of spoiling the film and the big issue here is with Rosamund Pike. All I will say is that she is incredible in this, is almost certainly going to get an Oscar nomination and should win. I’ll go into detail in my end of year lists. Ben Affleck meanwhile plays Nick brilliantly, showing that he is an incredibly flawed person and his complete disbelief over what has happened to Amy, along with his reactions during the search for her, feel really natural for a character like this and his brilliant performances in the present day scenes is aided by the chemistry he has with Carrie Coon who plays his twin sister Margo. There are also good performances from Kim Dickens and Patrick Fugit as Detective Boney and Officer Giplin respectively. There’s also an incredibly creepy performance from Neil Patrick Harris in the second half of the film but to say more would spoil the film. On a comedic side, Tyler Perry as Tanner Bolt is hilarious, he gets all the best lines, he plays off Affleck and Coons brilliantly and he shows how a lawyer like Bolt can get all the attention and success he does. There’s also a really funny performance from Missi Pyle as Ellen Abbot, the main newscaster covering the case, showing the extremes of the American media and how individual personalities can overwhelm a story. I feel like her performance is a jab towards a specific newscaster but since I’m unfamiliar with American TV I can’t say who.