If you lived through the 90's, then you are already familiar with David Fincher. His cinematic influence was inescapable during that bewildering decade. Like many other directors of the era, Fincher was yanked into the limelight as an up-and-comer who could save a project mired in development hell. For Fincher, his golden ticket was Alien 3 (Fincher, 1993). And while it was considered vastly inferior to its predecessor in every way, it still made enough box office to give Fincher some much-needed leverage in Hollywood. He rather successfully parlayed this to go on to direct the highly vaunted Seven (Fincher, 1993) and Fight Club (Fincher, 1999).
By the dawn of the new millennium, Fincher was poised to become one of the great directors of the aughts. However, that's when he stumbled. For a long time, he steadily released a string of movies that garnered only tepid reception. And lo, in the year of our Lord two thousand and eight, Fincher arose from the depths with a vengeful roar entitled The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (Fincher, 2008), and then went for a one-two punch, with a devastating follow through called The Social Network (Fincher, 2010). After a decade spent in relative obscurity, Fincher was back on top. He wasted no time in using his regained star-power to seize the helm of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (Fincher, 2011), based upon the controversial, best-selling novel of the same name.
Now why do I bother to bring all of this up? Because today we're going to visit Fincher's latest movie: Gone Girl (Fincher, 2014). Regrettably, Gone Girl is an extremely difficult movie to review out of context. It's a film about intrigue, deception, and constant plot twists. So much so, that it would be impossible for me to detail even its first half hour without giving away some fairly major spoilers. However, in context, the matter is completely different. Fincher is the director for making psychological thrillers for a casual audience. One has only to glance at his afore mentioned filmography to see what I mean.
Fincher has a formula, and it's an exceptionally good formula, which is he cherry picks scripts and adaptations that tend to have a major reveal, a huge twist. He then structures the rest of the movie around that pivotal moment. This doesn't make him a bad director by any means, but one has only to rewatch most of his movies to realize how the bulk of his films are essentially padding. It's a cinematic magic trick, and once you already know the trick, most of the wonderment is lost. I would argue that this holds especially true of Gone Girl, which is well shot, but features little visually that would have me coming back for a second screening.
The same holds true of the writing. I'm already going out of my way to avoid detailing the plot in any real capacity, to better allow our readers the chance to get the most out of this movie. So, I will keep this brief:
On the day of their fifth wedding anniversary, Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck) returns home to find that his wife Amy (Rosamund Pike) is missing. What starts out as a missing person's case quickly escalates into a tale of national intrigue that threatens to destroy everyone involved.
With that established, I don't think I'm ruining anything when I say that Gone Girl's narrative demands more than a little suspension of disbelief. In its attempt to reach a resolution, it resorts to several cheap cop-outs and at least one major deus ex machina. However in all likelihood, you won't notice any of these, due entirely to the movie's undeniable strength: pacing.
Gone Girl is a tightly coiled spring of a movie, filled with constant turns and always surging with a crushing tension, just waiting to erupt. This is a movie that will have you on edge of your seat. You will cringe. You will not be able to look away. And before it's over, you will be awed by the horror it instills. However, much like Psycho (Hitchcock, 1960) before it, the impact of Gone Girl's story will depend entirely upon how little you initially know to expect.
This is not to say that Gone Girl doesn't have anything else going for it. Its cast's performances are universally masterful. Although, I would argue that Carrie Coon especially dominates every scene fortunate enough to include her. Similarly, the score created by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross fosters an appropriately haunting ambiance, constantly manipulating the audience, while seldom really making itself known. Gone Girl is a quality production on every level.
So please, by all means watch this movie. Watch it, and do nothing else. Do not read the reviews. Do not talk to your friends about it. Do not look at any trailers. Just watch it, and hang on for dear life. Because Gone Girl is a terrifying thrill ride packed with more scares than anything else you'll see this Halloween season. I cannot recommend this movie highly enough.