On the day of their fifth wedding anniversary, Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck) came home to find furniture turned over, glass tables shattered, and his wife Amy (Rosamund Pike) missing. It’s not long before Nick found himself blamed for the disappearance and possible murder of his wife. These accusations led to national media frenzy, making him question both his character and innocence.
At its core, “Gone Girl” is a mystery. Initially, the classic question “whodunnit?” is proposed. This is why we come to see the film – to sit through two hours of obscurity and eventually get a good pay off. But writer Gillian Flynn and director David Fincher – director of films including “Fight Club” (1999) and “The Social Network” (2010) – have other ideas up their sleeves.
The opening shot of the film illustrates a picture of marital perfection. As Amy lies in Nick’s lap, she stares lovingly into his eyes – the eyes of the audience. But this picture is quickly distorted by Nick’s foundational narrative quote:
“When I think of my wife, I picture cracking her lovely skull, unspooling her brains. Trying to get answers. What are you thinking? What are you feeling? What have we done to each other?”
The rest of the film reflects this moment.
Initially, Nick and Amy – by all appearances – seem flawless. Underneath their façade, however, is something raw, naked and ugly. It takes our preliminary expectation of love and textbook relationships and flips them on their head.
Much of the film goes back and forth between the past and present. Amy narrates her side of the story through a number of diary entries, which become important to the overall narrative. With every entry, we understand more about the nuances of Nick and Amy’s relationship and the effect it has on the present, ongoing story.
The film cleverly touches on a number of themes by blurring the line between feminism and misogyny. The biggest of these themes revolves around gender relations. One moment, Nick appears narcissistic and aggressive. In the next, we find Amy appalling and sadistic. Although it helps that the story’s narration is shared between both sexes, it’s nearly impossible to determine the antagonist or pinpoint how we feel about either character throughout the film.
Fincher has always been known for his dark tone and visual exactitude. This remains true with “Gone Girl.” Not only does the story deal with challenging themes, the photographic aesthetic is consistently dark and mysterious. We never struggle to understand the motivation behind the camera. It’s apparent that Fincher worked closely with cinematographer Jeff Cronenweth to get the most out of this visual medium.
Fincher’s reach for visual perfection, however, doesn’t end with the camera. It continues with the editing. Although the story evolves from a basic premise into a complex narrative, we never lose track of any of the character’s development. Likewise, the editing never takes away from what has been framed in the camera. Rather, it adds to the overall pacing and optical grace of the picture.
I must also comment on the beguiling score composed by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross. The track “Appearances,” for example, skillfully reflects the outward beauty of the two main characters and the underlying fakery of their relationship. The soundtrack regularly interchanges between unnervingly eerie to pulsating, tension-building beats. It has earned its equitable spot as one of my favorite soundtracks of the year.
There is plenty to be said about “Gone Girl.” Similarly, the film has a lot to say. The world Fincher and Flynn crafted is ingeniously melodramatic. As a mystery-thriller, I have no criticisms. Every objection I had was illegitimate as it was vindicated by the end of the film. It is both a classic – reminding me of “Vertigo,” my favorite Hitchcock film – and modern in relevancy.
“Gone Girl” is one of the best mysteries in years.
Grant Fitzgerald is a senior film production major. This review reflects the view of the writer only.