David Fincher is one of the film industry’s premier names, having previously directed such critically acclaimed films as “Zodiac,” “The Social Network,” and “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,” not to mention cult favorites “Se7en” and “Fight Club.” Needless to say, the man has an impressive resume. What should also be noted are the successful literary adaptations in his catalogue. “Gone Girl” marks his sixth adaptation, this time scripted by the novel’s author, Gillian Flynn. Between Fincher as the director and Flynn as the screenwriter, the two create a tense, encapsulating mystery thriller that unfolds beautifully before your eyes.
People concerned about film adaptations deviating from the novel need not worry here. Not because it does not deviate from the source material — Flynn admits that it does — but because of Flynn’s own admission. It is easy to trust writers who pen their own film adaptations because they know better than anyone else how the plot should proceed.
The most apparent quality of “Gone Girl” is its storytelling ability, how it conceals and then reveals the film’s mysteries and twists. What is most impressive is how it steadily unfolds major plot points, yet maintains a sharp pace with the help of Fincher’s direction. Despite the film’s 149 minute run time, it takes you within its arms and does not let you go until its end, enveloping the viewer within the complexities of the story and never plodding along. It plays along knowing the audience knows nothing, yet never feels patronizing in that respect. There is a reason people should trust the author of the source material to write the adaptation, and Gillian Flynn emphatically proves why.
But let’s not take any credit away from Mr. Fincher, who supplies his stylish brand of direction to create a moody atmosphere complementing the film’s strong thematic darkness. Low-key lighting dominates many of the scenes, slightly obscuring the image’s subjects and providing a mysterious air which adds to the film’s suspense. Dialogue is often released at rapid-fire rates, and scenes often come and go. Much of the film is there and then gone, aiding one of the film’s central themes.
David Fincher proves why the project belongs in his capable hands not just with its stunning visuals or masterful incorporation of story, but also with the number of solid performances from his cast. Stars Ben Affleck, Neil Patrick Harris, Carrie Coon, Kim Dickens and Tyler Perry all give fine performances in their respective roles, but the true standout is Rosamund Pike in her performance as missing wife Amy Elliot-Dunne. Her commitment to the character’s many emotional turns makes for captivating viewing.
As previously mentioned, “Gone Girl” contains a strong thematic darkness, exploring a variety of topics. The film is a meditation on marriage, family relationships and the media, and it dissects each one with an appropriate and never overbearingly pessimistic flair. From the beginning, the film focuses on what it calls the primal questions that face every romantic relationship — questions like “What are you thinking?” It never shies away from the ugly truth that sometimes we do not want to know the answer to that all-important question.
Additionally, the film’s events test the bonds of a relationship that goes even further back — those between siblings. This sort of relationship is perhaps portrayed a little more positively than others in the film, but the struggles that Nick and Margo Dunne (as portrayed by Ben Affleck and Carrie Coon) overcome are what define their relationship as characters. Finally, the film delves into the media and the sensationalism it creates to draw the public in. Set with its own talking head, the film explores why the masses will always be drawn to this sort of journalism. The pessimism of these topics is never overwhelming, and instead makes for compelling drama.
When people think of David Fincher, they think of his reliability as a filmmaker. The hype for all of his projects is more than justified, and I, personally, will be counting the days until his next cinematic project is announced. “Gone Girl” is another outstanding achievement for its director and will very likely make a strong case for Best Picture when the Oscars come around, an honor it would be very worthy of receiving.
Rating: 4 stars out of 4