David Fincher is what’s known in the film business as an auteur: a director so precise and predominant in the filmmaking process that he exercises complete control over almost every element that goes in the movie. He’s notorious for doing excessive amounts of takes for a single scene so that he can shoot absolutely everything in frame exactly where and how he wants it.
It’s in this way that Fincher is not just the only person who could have directed “Gone Girl,” but also the only director who could ever have made it as good as it is. Working off a screenplay adapted by the original novelist, Gillian Flynn, Fincher has matched her surgically explicit thriller with his meticulous vision beat for beat to create an unfathomable, chilling story.
“Gone Girl” is the kind of movie that’s truly phenomenal but it’s impossible to explain too much of why without getting into spoilers. The story revolves around the morning of his fifth wedding anniversary when Nick Dunne finds his wife, Amy, has disappeared under suspicious circumstances. As in similar cases, the police and the public’s suspicions quickly shift to the husband and the story becomes the nagging question, “did Nick Dunne kill his wife?”
The premise is fairly generic, but this only sets up a fraction of the story’s underlying events, the nature of which all revolve around one absurdly massive twist in the second act that turns the entire movie on its head. In the hands of a less competent director this would be where the movie truly falls apart and is declared dead on arrival, but Fincher makes it work.
The twists and turns keep the continuity in check and allows the narrative to be less a crime mystery than a brilliant, pitch black satire of 21st century marriage and the essence of the trial of public opinion, as well as the media’s portrayal of crime stories as entertainment.
Ben Affleck leads the film as Nick Dunne and he turns in one of the best performances of his career. A big part of what drives the suspicion is the fact that it’s hard to believe Nick could be a murderer, but he’s definitely not a good guy. Affleck captures this and really makes every pivotal scene of Nick’s arc a question of whether he’s the guy to root for or not.
But the real star of this movie is Rosamund Pike in the role of Amy. Without giving anything away, Pike delivers an unthinkably strong performance that might be the most surprising display of talent since Heath Ledger’s Joker. She turns Amy into an idea and makes her one of the most interesting characters in the entire genre.
It’s impossible to discuss what makes “Gone Girl” so great without discussing what makes David Fincher one of the best at what he does. The entire film is shot and edited with seamless pacing. Throughout the entire story is the gradual crawl of suspense and anticipation that flows through the masterfully precise buildup of Nick’s investigation, highly reminiscent of Fincher’s sophomore feature, “Se7en.” And as in Fincher’s last two movies, Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross’ dark techno original score only adds to the atmosphere of mystery and doubt.
“Gone Girl” is a movie that a lot of people have been looking forward to for a long time and the result really couldn’t have been any better. The basic plot is Hitchcockian while the atmosphere is Kubrickian and it’s all wrapped up in an idyllic depiction of 21st century suburban life.
There couldn’t have been a better movie to kick off this fall’s Oscar race and provide a new necessity to any mystery collection. At the time of its release this is the best movie of the year.