Ingeniously clever, fiendishly crafted and full of surprises you won’t see coming, “Gone Girl” is endlessly entertaining and emerges as an Oscar frontrunner thanks to David Fincher’s peerless direction, Gillian Flynn’s razor sharp script and career best performances by leads Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike.
Nick (Affleck) and Amy (Pike) Dunne are a fairly average couple set to celebrate their fifth wedding anniversary. Nick confides to his twin sister, Margo (Carrie Coon), that he’s afraid Amy will one-up him on gifts once again this year, but he has a major shock when he returns home — Amy is missing and all signs point to her being beaten and kidnapped.
Det. Rhonda Boney (Kim Dickens, “Lost“) and her partner, Jim Gilpin (Patrick Fugit) take the case, but find Nick to be strangely unaffected by his wife’s disappearance even as she becomes a national headline. Affleck, in the most multilayered and fascinating turns in his career, will likely leave viewers equally leery and constantly fluctuating if they believe Nick or if they suspect him as well. It doesn’t help his case as Fincher shifts to flashbacks from Amy that paints an idyllic, loving marriage.
As the investigation continues, Nick’s image begins to take a hit and he goes from the grieving husband to a chief suspect in the court of public opinion. Celebrity status quickly turns to infamy and Nick reaches out to hotshot lawyer Tanner Bolt (Tyler Perry, “Alex Cross“) to help him navigate through the TV hosts, reporters and police that are convinced Nick is guilty of killing Amy.
Revealing more would spoil too much, but don’t think that the trailers have ruined anything. Adapting her own best selling 2012 novel, Flynn keeps the audience guessing what truly happened and just when it seems to all be coming into place, another shocking twist raises more questions.
What makes the script so mesmerizing is how timeless, yet topical as Nick and Amy deal with enduring marriage issues of money, family and communication as well as modern problems like the recession and a sardonic approach of “selling” oneself to your mate to make them love the promise and potential of their spouse, not the actual person. Flynn has a pretty damning take on the media watchdogs who leave victims in the wake of the pursuit of the big story and the scenes that are intentionally funny draw big laughs.
Fincher masterfully plays with the audience expectations and establishes a dark, mysterious vibe further aided by the haunting score by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross. While most viewers consider themselves expert detectives after decades of watching “CSI,” Fincher proves there’s numerous ways to keep them guessing.
Pike has always been a quality actress, but her stock is going to soar dramatically after this performance and she should be an easy Best Actress nomination lock. Continuing the theme, Fincher brings out easily the best we’ve seen from Perry, who’s able to showcase his charm in a manner that for the first times comes across as effortless. Similarly, Fincher is able to get Neil Patrick Harris to tap into a darker, disturbing side that would shock viewers of his long-running sitcom “How I Met Your Mother” in his role of Desi Collings, one of Amy’s former flames, while Coon dazzles in her first major screen role.
Come award season, don’t be shocked if “Gone Girl” doesn’t say hello to several en route to cleaning up at the Oscars. It hasn’t exactly been a banner year for movies, but the search for one of the year’s best is over with this all-together completely satisfying effort that will leave you thinking about it long after you’ve left the theater.
Rating: 10 out of 10