Fincher’s latest film opens in snapshots. Suburbia. A bar. A parked car. A body of water. The credits accompany these opening shots, and we watch the names of cast and crew fade as quickly as they appear. As with all Fincher’s recent productions (House of Cards comes to mind), the typography is beautiful and meshes seamlessly with the shots it accompanies. Thematically, even, this opening sequence speaks to us of exactly what this film is about: on the surface level, a disappearance; and, beneath that, the constant and fast-paced altering of the viewer’s perspective.
This perspective is primarily centred on Nick Dunne, who becomes the focus of a media circus soon after his wife’s strange disappearance. This media attention, alongside the police and his in-laws, looms over him and his every move. The film’s version of the media in particular is well-realised, and arguably one of the most crucial parts of the film, though Fincher and co. do an excellent job of not shoving it in our face throughout the runtime. Instead, the media is kind of always sitting on the fringe—omnipresent—occasionally becoming the central figure before receding once again. And the whole time, they’re painting the film’s story in a sensationalist light, twisting everything, feeding our doubt of the protagonist.
See, Ben Affleck’s Nick manages to make himself out as the bad guy pretty quickly. He’s aloof, and he reacts in ways that seem strange for a man who claims to be innocent. Certainly, he is not telling the whole truth—and so the media doubts him. And so the people in his town and across America doubt him. And so there’s one point where a TV personality declares him the most-hated man in America. And you know what? It gets pretty hard not to go along with it.
You have to understand also that this is quite a difficult film to discuss without ruining it for the emotional rollercoaster that it is. In fact, the film is somewhat reminiscent of 2013’s Side Effects in terms of the drastic shifts that take place within the arc of the story across its decent two-and-a-half hour runtime. There’s a lot of evolution in our perspectives of both Nick and Amy, and there are a lot of complex layers to their relationship that get added on top of one another, for the most part without becoming too overwhelming.
In fact, almost every facet of this plot, no matter whether complex or trivial, is serving a purpose. Plot points and evidence in the case investigation later evolve into important language-based symbols for communication between characters, deepening their complexities and opening the viewer up to new and uncomfortable realities. In terms of Nick and Amy Dunne’s relationship, there are more shades of grey to be found than in a poorly-written erotica. And for this Gone Girl should be celebrated.
The score here, by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, is phenomenal. There’s something so modern about the simple synth, and about how the composers use static and jarring textures to accentuate tension and underpin the film’s key moments of ultraviolence. A constant sense of brooding intrigue comes across at almost all times in this film, particularly when the music is coupled with Fincher’s distinct and mostly-muted colour palette, as well as Gone Girl’s motif of fading in and out of blackness.
Something else that occasionally and unfortunately fades in and out of obscurity is the plot. See, for the most part this film, with all its twists, works quite well. But there were a couple times, for instance with a plotpoint surrounding a ‘woodhouse’, where I was entirely lost—not because I didn’t understand the circumstances, but because it wasn’t clear how well certain characters understood the circumstances.
Additionally, there is a scene where a character is neglected a shower for the sake of a heavy-handed—albeit clever—visual metaphor. This strange circumstance is made even more jarring by being coupled with the convenient cessation of a questioning that could have (should have?) altered the entire course of the film’s conclusion. When the credits roll, there are no questions left for the audience to ask, but there are questions I somehow felt that certain characters should have asked. But because they went unasked, the ending, despite two concluding monologues of varying brilliance, felt somewhat emptier than it should have. Somewhat less believable. And for a story as complex as this, believability is important—any faltering, particularly towards the end, has a large effect. But I suppose it’s only a minor disappointment in the scheme of a film that pulls off so much—Gone Girl offers such an interesting observation of marriage, and of the flaws brought on by the pursuit of power and ownership within a relationship, that for every time the film breaks the illusion of reality, we’re given ten reasons not to mind at all.