Gone Girl | Film review – Ruthless dissection of a marriage delivers double-edged pleasures

Gone Girl - Ben Affleck as Nick Dunn

Director David Fincher and screenwriter Gillian Flynn, adapting her own bestselling page-turner of a novel, conduct a ruthless dissection of a modern marriage in Gone Girl, an enjoyably slippery suspense thriller that tugs our sympathies this way and that while springing narrative twists and traps with stomach-lurching suddenness.

The married couple dividing our sympathies are Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike’s Nick and Amy, whose outwardly perfect marriage hides festering secrets. And the twists begin with Amy’s disappearance from their Missouri home on the day of their fifth wedding anniversary. Signs of violence point to an abduction, but the police aren’t so sure and the media soon has Nick pinned as the culprit.

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We, meanwhile, have two unreliable narrators to guide us – Nick, who is being put through the purgatory of trial by 24-hour TV news; and Amy, via diary entries recounting the giddy glamour of their New York courtship and the soul-sapping torture of married life in Nick’s dull hometown, to which they retreated after losing their journalism jobs in the recession. Whose version can we trust?

For Flynn and Fincher, however, it’s not a question of which partner is most trustworthy but of peeling back the layers of disguise and deception that make up this marriage. Nick and Amy are a couple who don’t just present masks to the world; they present them to each other. Given this, Affleck and Pike are perfectly cast: he blandly handsome, she glacially beautiful, both somehow too good to be true.

The supporting cast are pretty fine, too: Carrie Coon as Nick’s level-headed twin sister; Kim Dickens as the shrewd police detective on the case; and Tyler Perry as Nick’s canny showboating lawyer, calmly riding the media storm unleashed by Amy’s disappearance. Flynn and Fincher relish skewering the hype and hysteria of rolling TV news and gossip-hungry chat shows, and the satire is one of the film’s incidental delights. Yet when it comes to the cruelly cunning mystery plot and the pitiless anatomy of a marriage, the film’s pleasures are far more double-edged and disquieting.

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Certificate 18. Runtime 149 mins. Director David Fincher.

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