After his slightly underwhelming remake of “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,” David Fincher hit a road bump in his streak of meticulously crafted film.
Following “Alien3,” an experience that almost made him quit directing because of constant studio interference, he rebounded with his first masterpiece, “Se7en.” Similarly, “Fight Club” came after the commercially disappointing “The Game,” and it remains one of the greatest cult films of all time.
Fincher’s newest thriller, “Gone Girl,” based on the best-selling Gillian Flynn novel, features his sleek style that reminisces themes from his most well-known films, in addition to his keen construction of moody settings and constant presence of eerie tension.
The film focuses on the seemingly idyllic relationship between Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck) and his beautiful wife, Amy (Rosamund Pike). It opens on the morning of their fifth wedding anniversary, with an exasperated Nick visiting the bar he owns with his twin sister Margot (Carrie Coon). Nick heads home to find a disturbing scene––an overturned glass table, other signs of a struggle and Amy is nowhere to be found.
Naturally, Nick turns to the authorities and the lead detective Rhonda Boney (Kim Dickens) decides to take action by holding an immediate press conference the following day. Nick’s awkward behavior in front of the camera and strangely incriminating evidence turns him into the lead suspect of Amy’s disappearance and “the most hated man in America.”
Told both in real time and flashbacks via Amy’s diary, the story spirals wildly beyond anyone’s imagination or expectations. Without giving too much away, one of “Gone Girl’s” most poignant features is its focus on the nuances and dangers of simplistic gender stereotypes. Amy is the perfect woman, blonde, svelte and financially well-off, while Nick complements her as the handsome, well-read affectionate husband.
Both struggle to maintain the bliss of the early stages of their relationship, vowing over and over that they “won’t be like THOSE couples” and that “everything else is background noise.”
Fincher and Flynn use the preconceived notions about the “proper” behavior patterns of men and women to their narrative advantage, presenting tried-and-true tropes and then turning them completely on their head, resulting in an astonishing filmic experience.
Flynn’s novel, aside from exploring the dynamics of a crumbling marriage, also expertly portrays the timeliness of the negative effects that come from social media and the recent economic recession. Fincher presents these themes on screen with sublime satire, portraying a town rooted in deep urban decay that rivals that of Detroit, in addition to the power of social media dictating the public’s overall perception of a person involved in a crime.
A film saturated with such intensity requires its actors to dial it up as much as possible and thankfully, no one disappoints.In particular, Rosamund Pike’s turn as Amy can be hailed as nothing less than a revelation. Though Pike’s career traces as far back as the late 90s, her roles have consisted largely of side characters in questionable films.
In what can be called her breakout role, Pike’s range is a terrifying force to contend with. Coolly calculating yet coyly demure, there is little doubt Pike will be winning awards left and right for her multi-faceted Amy. Even alongside Pike’s towering performance, Ben Affleck delivers the finest two and a half hours of his acting career as Nick Dunne. Playing a character that’s rooted in deep ambiguity while paralelling his past real-life scrutiny under the paparazzi, Affleck skillfully shifts between varying personalities that continuously make you question whether or not he’s innocent.
Despite the large presence of both Affleck and Pike’s performances, the side characters never get lost in the shuffle. Most notable are Tanner Bolt, Nick’s attorney, and Margot, Nick’s twin sister. Played by Tyler Perry and Carrie Coons respectively, both characters bring a refreshing comic break and dose of realism amongst the chaos of Nick and Amy’s twisted relationship.
Though David Fincher is an intimidating force behind the camera, most notably for shooting tens of takes for every scene, his obsessive attention for detail pays off in breathtaking fashion. His use of dim lighting remains one of his most stylish aspects and it works regardless of whatever time of day a specific scene is set. Alongside cinematographer Jeff Cronenweth, they frame each shot with pristine focus on both the actors and even for props that sometimes prove to be vital in the investigation process.
Also thrown in with another eerily fantastic score by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, “Gone Girl” is a bonafide mystery thriller that couldn’t have been done by anyone better than David Fincher.
Everything from the riveting performances to Fincher’s lavish visual style are top-notch and will surely be talked about throughout the upcoming award season.
RECOMMENDED: David Fincher’s latest masterpiece ties social commentary, pleasing aesthetics and a well-written story into one hell of a mystery thriller.