David Fincher is the greatest and definitive director of his generation. Like Elia Kazan before him, the undoubted godfather of American Film, Fincher brings an unrivalled psychological brutality and realism to his films brimming with heated suspense. Thrusting film into the modern age, his influence is imprinted not only on modern film but culture as well. Fincher’s 1990’s filmmaking from the brutal masterpiece fight club to the psychological gore of Se7en has had profound effects on our society’s prevalent anaesthetization of violence. Never before had violence seemed so real, so penetrating to our psyche. Over the last twenty years of his career it seems Fincher is incapable of producing a film that can be called anything but great. His latest offering, Gone Girl, adapted from Gillian Flynn’s best-selling novel, has understandably therefore been greeted with much hype and fanfare.
Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck) returns home on his fifth anniversary to find his wife, Amy (Rosamund Pike) missing. Circumstances appear dubious and Nick is caught up in the ensuing media frenzy, accusing him of not only being a sociopath but also responsible for his wife’s presumed death.
I cannot say much more than this, as like most of Fincher’s films the plot is a series of twists and reveals designed to wring as much emotion and uncertainty within the audience’s mind as is humanly possible. However, the film does have some glaring issues. Affleck is a competent leading man, but unlike in his directing career where he has forged a path as a highly creative and powerful film maker, Affleck in his day job as an actor is still disappointingly bland. On the other hand, Rosamund Pike in the leading female role gives an incredibly intuitive tour de force breakthrough performance. She is able to encapsulate perfectly the multifaceted character of Affleck’s wife, as utterly believable as the femme fatale as she is the struggling house wife. Tyler Perry, on paper a bizarre casting due to his penchant for portraying caricatures of black women in drag, is a tremendous assured and witty foil as Defence lawyer Tanner Bolt to Affleck’s dour Nick.
Fincher is revered for his taut and suspenseful films and there is no doubt that there are moments of that flair that appear in this film. A particularly harrowing scene is dripping in dark sexual tension. However, at 149 minutes the film is far too long, as particular sections seem to drag for far too long then they should, although these seem to be solely those sections revealing the psychological torment of Affleck’s character. Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross flawlessly layered Fincher’s earlier film The Social Network with dark pulsating synths, however here the soundtrack is annoyingly obtrusive, leaving no room for any amount of reflection.
This list of flaws does not make the film unworthy of viewing, far from it. Fincher beautifully drops subtle comments about the media, relationships and modern misogyny that make the film one of the most thought-provoking of the year. However, you may find yourself scratching your head over the film’s open, and ultimately unsatisfying, ending more than you do over any of Fincher’s attempts at social commentary.