Marriage is war.
At least that is one of the themes of the hit movie Gone Girl.
I was looking forward to this movie since I saw the trailer. It looked intriguing and I have become more and more a fan of Ben Affleck over the years.
The story begins on the morning of the wedding anniversay of Nick (Affleck) and Amy (Rosmund Pike). Nick heads to the bar he runs with his twin sister Margo Dunne (Carrie Coon) where he vents about his unhappy marriage. When he comes home he finds a broken coffee table and some blood, but no Amy. The police investigate, led by Det. Rhonda Boney (Kim Dickens), but there are more questions than answers. The film intersperses the investigation with flashbacks from Amy's journals about how she and Nick met, fell in love, and began to disintegrate.
The more that is revealed, the more it appears Nick is hiding. Is he a hapless victim of circumstance or is he a cold-blooded killer with a painted smile? There are some shady characters around to be sure like one of Amy's old boyfriends Desi (Neil Patrick Harris) who comes to help with the search party. But is he a real suspect or is this just a red herring?
Direct David Fincher does an amazing job of creating mood and atmosphere and an aire of ambiguity that creates a wonderful tension. You want to like and identify with Nick, but like everyone else you can't help but wonder what else he is hiding.
It is difficult to continue a review because of some fairly significant plot twists. What I will say is this: halfway through the movie it stops being a mystery. All of the answers are given in the middle of the movie.
This is actually a terrible shame because the movie loses most of its strength here.
It reminds me of the movie 28 Days Later. It starts as a terrifying zombie horror movie. And then about half-way in it decides to be a commentary on human violence. Or No Country for Old Men that began as an amazing thriller and then turns into a meditation on age and death.
Gone Girl goes the same unconventional route. And actually for a good portion of the second act, the movie is still enjoyable. As I said, it ceases to be a mystery and instead becomes a stressful game of wits. But then everthing eventually degenerates in the third act.
Fincher and writer Gillian Flynn are trying to say something fairly dark about modern marriages, about how they are simple power struggles where people use each other for mutual advantage. The great film reviewer John Nolte overlooks this because he says that this theme is tucked away deeply. I disagree. It is so blatant as that you can't help but feel its ugly message linger. They also want to say somethings about the news media and their drive-by tactics, and those ring true but by the end you cease caring.
And the ugliness is so very intentional. Fincher casts everything in drap tones and shadows. It almost feels like there is a depression linger over the air. And all of the characters are ugly, including Nick. The only redeemable character is Margo, who is explicitly called the voice of reason. But reason is drowned out by the darkness.
The performances are fantastic. Affleck is excellent as the put-upon man who does and doesn't earn your sympathy. Pike also displays an emotional range that is transformative. The entire rest of the supporting cast also brings their A-Game. Tyler Perry is charming and cold as Nick's lawyer. Dickens brings intelligence and conviction to her officer that is reminiscent of the recent good work that Amy Adams has done.
The skill used in making this film is evident. But it is used for an ugly end. I know I've used the word "ugly" several times in this review, but that is the one word that keeps coming back up. The people, the actions, the themes, the morals are all repulsive.
Gone Girl is a well made film about a dark, ugly theme, I wanted to like it more, but what could have been a satisfying mystery turned into a disturbing tale that uncomfortably lingers.
3 and 1/2 out of 5 stars.