Based upon the global bestseller by Gillian Flynn, Gone Girl unearths the secrets at the heart of a modern marriage. On the occasion of his fifth wedding anniversary, Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck) reports that his beautiful wife, Amy (Rosamund Pike), has gone missing. Under pressure from the police and a growing media frenzy, Nick's portrait of a blissful union begins to crumble. Soon his lies, deceits and strange behavior have everyone asking the same dark question: Did Nick Dunne kill his wife?
Anyone who has a wife or husband knows the institution of marriage is rarely a bed of roses, but when things get tough, just think of 'Gone Girl' and you'll quickly count your blessings and consider your union idyllic. Director David Fincher's latest examination of the human psyche’s dark side (faithfully adapted by Gillian Flynn from her own bestselling novel) paints a brutal and disturbing portrait of modern marriage as it chronicles the degeneration of a seemingly perfect relationship, and how manipulations, recriminations, and personality disorders transform love into hate in the blink of an eye. Like most of Fincher's films, it's well crafted, engrossing, a bit eerie, and appropriately cold, but despite its gripping plot and excellent performances, 'Gone Girl' doesn't leave us much to chew on after the closing credits roll. Though it expresses some universal truths about men, women, sexual politics, and the power of media in our society (and flirts with the issue of female empowerment, which it inexplicably - and some might say unforgivably - chucks in the toilet toward the end), it’s surprisingly vacuous overall. The screwy main characters behave ever more bizarrely over time, and after two-and-a-half hours in their presence, we're ready to bid them adieu, divorce them from our consciousness, and move on.
I'm a huge Fincher fan ('Se7en,' 'Zodiac,' and 'The Social Network' are dazzling examples of his vision and artistry), but 'Gone Girl' brings nothing new to the table. It resembles his earlier works in style and tone, but doesn't expand upon them, and that disappointed me. Make no mistake, the movie ranks high above most of the rubbish released in 2014 (despite its excessive length, it's a crackling popcorn mystery), but somehow I expected more from such a gifted director. Such Fincher staples as sterile elegance, an aura of dread, and intriguing characters pervade the proceedings, but even the layered narrative and shocking twists can't mask the presentation's auto-pilot nature, especially as 'Gone Girl' loses steam and careens off the rails during its final act.
Divulging too many plot details would spoil the film's fun and decrease its shock value, so suffice it to say 'Gone Girl' chronicles the horrific odyssey of Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck), which begins when he arrives home on the morning of his fifth wedding anniversary to ironically ask his wife Amy (Rosamund Pike) for a divorce. Instead, much to his supposed surprise, he finds his swanky suburban abode ransacked and his spouse missing. Nick notifies the authorities, but his calm demeanor, lack of emotion, and some alarming evidence raise the eyebrows of investigators, who quickly label him a person of interest in Amy’s disappearance. The maelstrom intensifies when the case hits the national airwaves and Nick’s oddly blasé attitude and a critical media gaffe incite the ire of Ellen Abbott (Missi Pyle), a Nancy Grace-like TV talk show host who vilifies him on a nightly basis. To combat the attacks and allegations, Nick hires Johnny Cochran-like super-attorney Tanner Bolt (Tyler Perry), but several shadows of doubt continue to hang over him, even leading his staunchly devoted twin sister Margo (Carrie Coon) to question his innocence.
From there, the slow-burn ’Gone Girl’ steps on the gas and becomes a classic buckle-up-and-enjoy-the-ride thriller that seems to relish brandishing ever more wacko elements as it twists and turns to its climax. Flynn's screenplay will please the novel’s fans but frustrate viewers craving a taut tale. Like many features these days, ‘Gone Girl’ overstays its welcome by about a half hour, pushing the envelope an extra inch and pushing the narrative that much further beyond the realm of reality. The film still drags marriage through the mud, but the statement it makes is more powerfully presented in a straight dramatic movie like ‘Revolutionary Road’ than in this over-the-top mystery-thriller.
Fincher embraces the material and instantly sucks us into Nick’s reality, juxtaposing it against reminiscences in Amy’s diary. He seamlessly weaves the fascinating dual perspectives together, yet neither of the leads are very likable, so we don’t invest any emotional capital in their lives. Like the detectives probing the case, our interest is merely analytical and intellectual. We’re curious about what makes these people tick, but don’t particularly care what happens to them.
And neither, of course, does the media, which regards Nick as little more than ratings fodder and rabidly exploits the sensationalistic aspects of his story. Fincher’s depiction of tabloid reporters as ferocious gossip mongers ready to pounce on every juicy morsel whether it’s true or not and broadcast it with salacious glee to a gullible public adds a devastating dose of satire to the film that eases the tension and dilutes the unrelenting unpleasantness. He also aptly shows how the news industry manipulates those in the spotlight and, in turn, those in the spotlight manipulate the news industry - a strange codependence that fills the airwaves and fuels the cynicism that cuts across contemporary society.
Pike received a Best Actress Oscar nomination for her laser sharp portrayal, but it’s doubtful such an icy character will win the Academy’s favor. Affleck is equally good - his inherent blandness suits the detached Nick to a T - and Fincher wrings fine work from a strong supporting cast that includes Perry (yes, Perry), Neil Patrick Harris, Kim Dickens, Patrick Fugit, Casey Wilson, and Sela Ward. Pyle channels Nancy Grace to perfection, and her brief scenes add extra spice to the film.
If ‘Gone Girl’ had been released earlier in Fincher’s career, it certainly would have engendered more enthusiasm from me, but a nagging sense of sameness somewhat sours me on this finely crafted, often compelling, and occasionally riveting production. Fincher does his job and does it well, but he didn’t blow me away like he has in the past, and the material ultimately lets him - and us - down. ‘Gone Girl’ begins as a sweet cerebral whodunit, but degenerates during its second half, becoming a bitter pill that’s tough to swallow and sadly doesn’t cure the insidious malaise that afflicts this entertaining yet empty film.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
'Gone Girl' arrives on Blu-ray packaged in a cardboard fold-out case inside a three-sided sleeve. A leaflet containing a code to access the Ultraviolet Digital HD copy is tucked inside, along with the softbound, illustrated, 40-page children's book 'Amazing Amy: Tattle Tale,' written by Amy's parents. The handsomely produced volume is an interesting curio and collectible (once you see the film, you'll know why), but hardly a necessary addition to this release. Video codec is 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 and default audio is DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1. Once the disc is inserted into the player, the full-motion menu with sound effects immediately pops up; no previews or promos precede it.
The story of 'Gone Girl' is gritty, dirty, and brimming with texture, but the 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 transfer from Fox is the polar opposite. Sleek, smooth, and antiseptically clean, the image exhibits no grain and sports exceptional contrast and clarity. A bleak pallor hangs over the picture that nicely mirrors the darker aspects of the narrative, but detail is never compromised and shadow delineation is quite strong. Black levels are rich and deep, whites are bright but never bloom, and fleshtones remain natural and stable throughout. Close-ups highlight fine facial features well, such as Affleck's stubble, Pike's cool beauty, and the weathered visage of actor David Clennon, while the muted color palette lends an appropriate air of unease to the proceedings. Best of all, no banding, noise, or pixelation afflict the transfer, and no digital doctoring could be detected. This is an excellent effort from Fox that will certainly please the movie's wide fan base.
For what's a relatively quiet, brooding film, the DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 track is quite active, yet highly nuanced. A wealth of surround activity keeps the rears active, as chirping birds, buzzing insects, and plenty of scoring bleeds help immerse us in the action. Substantial stereo separation up front enhances the expansive feel, and a wide dynamic scale handles all the highs and lows without a hint of distortion. Bass frequencies aren't as pronounced as one might like, but there's still some heft from time to time, and Trent Reznor's techno music score benefits from fine fidelity and fills the room with ease. At times, some of the dialogue is a bit difficult to comprehend, as extraneous atmospherics occasionally overwhelm the track, but thankfully such instances are rare. All in all, this is a solid mix that maximizes its potential despite a few errant blips.
Disappointing is the best word that describes the lack of supplements on this disc. Though a future special edition will surely include more material, it's too bad this initial release gyps fans out of some behind-the-scenes featurettes.
Audio Commentary - Director David Fincher sounds like he had a couple of shots of caffeine prior to recording this lively and engaging commentary that nicely dissects the film and includes a satisfying mix of technical info, story analysis, and production anecdotes. Fincher talks almost constantly throughout the two-and-a-half-hour movie, discussing the picture's marketing campaign (and how he refused to commit to helming 'Gone Girl' until he received a firm commitment from Fox that the trailer wouldn't ruin the twist), its various locations, casting, and how he collaborated with author Gillian Flynn during shooting. One of my favorite stories outlines the four-day production shutdown that occurred when Affleck - a Bostonian and avid Red Sox fan - refused to wear a Yankee baseball cap during a key scene. Fincher is candid, a bit profane, but always interesting to listen to, and his perspective sheds essential light on how this intriguing production came together.
‘Gone Girl’ ranks as one of 2014’s better films, despite the collapse of its compelling story, which degenerates into a shock fest two-thirds of the way through, as director David Fincher and author Gillian Flynn trade a nightmarish reality for cheap thrills. The unfortunate shift in tone winds up tainting this eerie tale of a storybook marriage gone bad, and probably ruined the movie’s chance of nabbing a Best Picture Oscar nomination. Fincher’s slick, seductive visuals immerse us in the characters’ tawdry world, and the well-written script and superior performances keep us involved even after the story loses us. Much like the film, Fox’s Blu-ray presentation favors style over substance, with handsome, classy packaging masking a disc that’s woefully short on supplements. Top-notch video and audio transfers, however, provide an excellent viewing experience. In the end, ‘Gone Girl’ is alternately dazzling and maddening, true and preposterous, exhilarating and deflating, all of which make it definitely worth watching at least once.