The enjoyment of this adaptation (by Gillian Flynn herself) rests solely on THAT twist and when it happens - and it happens early, around the halfway mark - make the decision quickly: get on board and Gone Girl is a classy, unpredictable thriller, don’t and prepare to grumble through its preposterous second half.
Affleck and Pike are a formerly happy couple now firmly on the skids; on the morning of their anniversary Affleck is in his bar (co-run with twin sis Coon) downing bourbon. He turns for home to find signs of a break in, Pike missing, and calls the police. Search parties are organised and the public are appealed but Pike’s whereabouts remain a mystery. Soon media attention to turns on Affleck and his questionable attitude: Shouldn’t he be more concerned? Is he hiding something? Did he kill her and hide the body?
The first half is a cracker with Affleck in fine fettle. Occupying that middle ground of guilty/not guilty, he’s cynical and tired, all too aware of the ‘role’ he’s supposed to play in front of the cameras, the role his parents-in-law (David Clennon and Lisa Baines) do so well. Everything he does, every gesture, can be explained away/confirms his guilt. There are red herrings ahoy as the story keeps one guessing with Flynn’s script retouching the novel to hint at the coming twist. Kim Dickens, as the detective, is solid, enjoying a back-and-forth with Patrick Fugit’s cop. And there’s humour: when alluding to Pike’s allegedly cold personality, Coon quips, “Don’t worry. Whoever took her is bound to bring her back.”
And then it just takes off/falls apart but regardless what the end result is, it’s here where Pike comes into her own (the rules of spoilers dictate why she’s so good will remain a mystery here). What can be said is that Fincher and Flynn dealings with a vindictive, populist media is so pointed in its attack it feels like they are on a crusade. The odd touches of humour that oddly worked now feel out of place.
Twist aside, the biggest surprise is that it doesn’t have that David Fincher stamp. Those trademark icky greens and shadows are present, and there’s a gentle pace through the two-and-a-half hours thanks to scenes being visually and verbally linked, but, just like his by-the-numbers remake of Dragon Tattoo, this film could have been directed by anyone. And if it was directed by anyone this wouldn’t receive half its plaudits.
Despite a brilliant opening half, and solid performances, Gone Girl is a thriller that doesn’t have the same levels of engagement as Fincher’s film about a website.