By Muhammad MuzammalCOLUMNIST
It boils. It bleeds. It’s alive. David Fincher’s “Gone Girl” is a mesmerizing adaptation of the book of the same name, written by Gillian Flynn (who also wrote the screenplay for the movie).
Relentlessly paced and concisely edited, this thriller features career-best performances from Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike, who portray a husband and wife whose marriage falls apart in twisted, dark ways.
Besides being an excellent commentary on mass media, the movie is an insightful view into marriage and the things we keep from our significant other, and the effects that these secrets can have on the relationship and the mindset of both parties.
The film starts with a gruesome monologue from Nick Dunne (Affleck), who speaks of crushing his wife Amy’s (Pike) skull, thereby seeing her for who she really is. It’s a brilliant way to start off a film that will be one of a similar experience: we’ll follow Nick as he goes deeper into the movie’s central mystery.
On the morning of the Dunne’s five-year anniversary, Amy is reported missing and as the police investigators find more clues, Nick starts to become the main suspect. His personality doesn’t help. Affleck finds that thin line between a doofus and someone fully aware of the seriousness of the situation, and he embraces the role in an impressive way. Dunne smiles in front of the cameras and doesn’t express sadness when Amy is gone.
The case blows up in front of him and within a week, news vans, talk show hosts and lawyers all crowd around his personal space, harassing supportive characters like his twin sister Margo (an outstanding Carrie Coon), who is one of the rare voices of reason in a movie full of unreasonable choices and unsettling events.
The present-day story of Amy’s case is juxtaposed with flashbacks showing the development of Amy and Nick’s relationship. “Gone Girl” has shades of humor stemming throughout. For instance, one of the movie’s running jokes is that a dopey, naive guy like Dunne, who is as watchable as any likable character of any film this year, could actually be a methodical, cold-blooded serial killer. This comical tidbit reflects upon the mass media culture that Fincher expertly shows in his film. The media jumps on anything controversial and viewers, without looking at both sides of the case, past nonsensical, irrational judgment.
Production designer Donald Graham Burt creates a world that is appropriately grey, drab and cold. Cinematographer Jeff Cronenworth keeps the camera mounted near the characters’ faces, allowing us to get “in their heads,” and the film, like all of Fincher’s works, is darkly lit, adding to the gloomy, bleak mood. Composers Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, who created beautiful music for Fincher’s last two films, make a soundtrack that is both unsettling and soothing.
Pike gives a strong performance as Amy Dunne. Pike portrays her psychotic personality in the flashback sequences and convincing as the scared wife of Nick, narrating the flashbacks with heavy paranoia.
Affleck, looking more broad-shouldered than ever, is a revelation as Nick. The actor, who once seemed to show a limited range, has the role of Nick down pat. He’s angry, ferocious, funny and in his own way, charming as a man accused of killing his wife.
But the real star of the film is Fincher. The master filmmaker has assembled a cast and crew who, with his help, powerfully convey the director’s misanthropic vision of modern day society and the movie becomes an affecting disturbing experience.