Overview: A man comes home to find his wife missing, and the ensuing investigation reveals clues that point to his involvement in her disappearance.  Distributed by 20th Century Fox, rated R, 149 minutes.

The Flynn/Fincher Factor:  Gillian Flynn and David Fincher are a match made in movie heaven.  The source material for this film is a twisted literary thriller that manages to elicit fear, revulsion, and awe from its readers.  In this adaptation, Fincher’s stylistically gorgeous and moody direction along with Flynn’s darkly funny and hauntingly unsettling screenplay combine to create a terrifying and completely satisfying movie-going experience.  The moments that are shocking on paper are equally jaw-dropping on screen, even for those who are familiar with the story and its twists.  There is a biting humor unique to the film that proves a surprisingly smart addition to the script.  There are moments where it feels as if the viewer’s only options are to giggle or to scream.  Fincher’s slick, artistic style adds a dark, glossy sheen perfectly suited for the variety of  faces Nick and Amy Dunne choose to display to the world.  All of these elements flow seamlessly together to provide viewers with one of the most exciting, uncomfortable, and shocking movies of the year.  It’s a 149 minute roller coaster that both scares you and makes you want to get back on again.

Like the novel, this movie is divided into thirds; essentially, his, hers, and theirs.  Each of these sections carefully peels back the layers to reveal the underlying truth that lies in the inner workings of the marriage of Nick and Amy Dunne.  Fincher succeeds in punctuating each of these distinct chapters with a signifying moment.  Whether it’s a burst of sun shining down on a happy blonde with the wind blowing through her hair or a truly horrific bedroom scene, those moments in Flynn’s novel that inspired readers to turn pages through entire nights without sleep are the same moments that will now be burned into viewer’s brains long after they leave the theater.

Nick and Amy Dunne:  The casting for everyone’s favorite newlyweds couldn’t possibly have been more spot on.  Ben Affleck channels a somewhat smug, superior demeanor in his performance as Nick Dunne, who, even when he’s the victim, remains largely unsympathetic.  Nick Dunne doesn’t deserve these circumstances, but he’s not exactly a role model.  Affleck lends a pretentious charm that creates a constant cloud of doubt over his character.

However, the real star of the show is the gone girl herself, portrayed with frightening precision by Rosamund Pike.  I’ve been smitten by Pike’s voice ever since she played the icy villain Miranda Frost in Die Another Day.  That voice is one of the most flawlessly chilling things in Gone Girl.  Amy Dunne takes us on her own personal journey through her marriage, and that voice instantly creates that sense of simultaneous fascination and unease that hovers over the entire film.  Rosamund Pike embodies this brilliantly unstable character with full force as she constantly morphs from one person to another.  Her squeals of delight and gasps of fear are all carefully calculated and pitch-perfectly executed.  The best moments are when Amy Dunne forgets, even if just for a second, who she’s trying to be.  The effortless range Pike displays as she switches personas at the snap of a finger cements this as one of the best (albeit most terrifying) performances by a female actor I’ve seen all year.

I can’t move away from the praise of one stellar female performance without mentioning another: Carrie Coon’s scene stealing turn as Nick’s twin sister, Margo Dunne.  She’s quick witted, often slicing through the tension with most of the sardonic humor mentioned above.  Her cynical tone and raw vulnerability toward her brother create one of the only genuinely likable characters to be found in the film, and she adds a well placed change of pace from the love-t0-hate dynamic that saturates the rest of Gone Girl.

For Better or Worse:  Above all, Gone Girl is not only a suspense thriller that provides an amplified look at the toxic wildfire the media storm creates in light of tragedies, a circus show that allows anyone and everyone to draw their own unwarranted conclusions.  It’s also a disturbing story of the marriage between two people that, above all else, might just be meant for one another.  After all, better the devil you know than the devil you don’t, right?   

A match made in hell. 20th Century Fox

A match made in hell.
20th Century Fox

Grade: A