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Review

Director David Fincher leaves audiences guessing with twisted thriller ‘Gone Girl’

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October 10, 2014

After one of the worst blockbuster summers in recent memory, Oscar season is finally here with the opening of “Gone Girl,” just in time to revive our love for the American cinema.

“Gone Girl,” the 2012 novel by Gillian Flynn, is undoubtedly one of the best books of the last decade with its calculated, demented and flawed characters, razor-sharp dialogue, and twisted premise. Flynn’s novel may not be for everyone.

Movie poster for Gone Girl.
“Gone Girl” stars Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike.
“Gone Girl” is pessimistic, gory and somewhat anticlimactic, and its lead characters, more importantly, are nearly impossible to admire. Yet readers simply could not put it down.

The film, which hit theaters everywhere Oct. 3, is directed by David Fincher, who is easily one of the best living American directors. Audiences have grown to love his moody, grim and deliberate thrillers.

“The Social Network,” possibly his best cinematic achievement to date, made the story of Mark Zuckerberg seem riveting and engaging. “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” gave new life to one of the most interesting and enthralling characters in cinematic history: Lisbeth Salander.

Most people know Fincher as the director of “Seven” and “Fight Club,” because these films are considered cult-classics, but it wasn’t until 2007’s “Zodiac” that critics and audiences began to label Fincher as a true artist.

Fincher has been called a perfectionist by Hollywood cast and crew, which I’m sure is frustrating, but he also gets the best out of each and every person involved, case in point: “Gone Girl.”

“Gone Girl,” the film, opens with Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck) holding his wife Amy (Rosamund Pike) in their bed. Nick is admiring his wife’s scalp, admitting to the audience, through a voice-over, that when he thinks of his wife he imagines “cracking her skull open” and digging inside her brain to find out what she is thinking. Queue audience snickering and gasping.

Rewind, many years, to the day Nick and Amy first met at a sophisticated Manhattan party. They charm each other and pretend to be people they are not. Nick pretends he is a successful, witty man with confidence. Amy pretends to be, as she later reveals, “Cool Girl,” who pretends to like drinking light beer, watching football and keeping herself a size two.

Nick and Amy both find true love for the first time, despite the fact that they hail from two different worlds and are two extremely different people. That night they share their first kiss in an alley in Manhattan.

Fast forward to the present. Nick and Amy now live in Carthage, Missouri. Nick leaves for work, where he tends bar with his twin sister Margo (Carrie Coon). Nick and Margo co-own the bar.

Nick and Margo get along much better than most siblings, because, well, these two aren’t your average twins. While playing the board game of “Life” to pass time, Nick gets a call from his neighbor, who claims that his front door is open and his red tabby cat is loose.

Nick drives home to find his stay-at-home wife nowhere to be found. In the living room there is broken glass, furniture upturned and signs of struggle. Nick calls the police. Amy is gone. So it begins.

Over the next five days Nick digs himself into quite a hole. Slowly the police and townspeople discover that Nick has secrets.

Nick has a mistress. Nick increased Amy’s life insurance policy to $1.5 million. Nick claims his wife doesn’t have any friends. Nick has no idea what his wife does all day. Nick doesn’t have an alibi for the morning of Amy’s disappearance. Nick has purchased thousands of dollars in merchandise that is nowhere to be found. Nick is in trouble.

Nick, who also teaches at the local community college, would be the first to admit that he’s a bad husband. He has cheated on his wife for over a year with one of his 20-year-old college students. He has neglected his wife, physically and emotionally. He forced Amy and him to move to Missouri when they both lost their jobs in Manhattan. But did Nick kill his wife? Does all this evidence make Nick a cold, calculated killer?

As you would expect from Fincher and Flynn, the plot twists and turns. Layers of deceit is unveiled. Blood is spilled. But where is Amy Dunne?

Two rather interesting casting choices were made in Tyler Perry as defense attorney Tanner Bolt, and Neil Patrick Harris as Amy’s ex-boyfriend Desi Collings. Perry and Harris are rarely cast in deadserious films like “Gone Girl,” but respectively they both pulled off strong acting performances.

One of the most important aspects of “Gone Girl” comes behind the scenes in the musical score composed by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, who are both known for their work with Fincher in “The Social Network” and “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.”

Reznor, who is of course well known as the lead singer of Nine Inch Nails, and Ross won an Oscar and a Golden Globe for their score of “The Social Network.” Their unique, hair-raising and unmerciful score of “Gone Girl” deserves yet another Oscar nod. The cinematography by Jeff Cronenweth is as memorable as you would expect from the man nominated for two Oscars in “The Social Network” and “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.” Each single shot is simultaneously beautiful and mysterious.

Affleck (“Argo”) has rarely been better than he is as the bewildered and consciously divided Nick Dunne. Pike (“Pride and Prejudice”) is a relatively unknown, but she is masterful as the secretive and seductive housewife; Pike has never been better, without a doubt.

“Gone Girl” earns its R-rating, as do most of Fincher’s films, so be wary when entering. That being said, “Gone Girl” is the slyest, sickest, most entertaining thriller about spousal problems ever made.

The book is “I couldn’t put it down” material, and the film is a must-see.

Jack Tuthill is an alumnus of UW-River Falls. He was editor of the <em>Student Voice</em> during the 2014-2015 academic year.