Screenplay and original book written by: Gillian Flynn
Directed by:David Fincher
Starring: Ben Affleck. Rosamund Pike. Neil Patrick Harris. Carrie Coon. Kim Dickens. Tyler Perry.
Gillian Flynn’s 2012 book gets one of the most highly anticipated book adaptations since the stories of Jesus or Harry Potter. This time the story isn’t armed with a child saviour but with a story centered around the themes of relationships, honesty, perception and magic….ok wait, that last one was still Harry potter.
The story follows bar owner and ex-writer Nick Dunne (Affleck) who finds that his wife has gone missing on their fifth anniversary. As the search continues and the investigation heats up, facts come to light and Nick’ character and involvement come into question. Nick is shown on the media to be about as popular as Nick Clegg stamping on a student’s pet puppy as he loses trust in the police and struggles to prove his own innocence and find his wife.
There are many issues that can be discussed but for now i thought it best to avoid spoilers like Affleck probably avoids showings of Gigli.
With Flynn writing the book and screenplay a smart choice is made as any deviations from the story are made in the best choice for her beloved work. She admits she was nervous and the work only continued thanks to the dedication to the book and continual encouragement of David Fincher. Now Fincher is the sultan of style with more atmosphere and style than George Clooney in a Versace suit, drinking whiskey through a saxophone. His previous films such as Se7en or Social Network show how he consistently creates a believable and heavy world orchestrate a plot in, full of dark and passionate characters who are victims to his whim.
Fincher’s world is again fantastic, the camera angles are smart without being forced or pretentious, the world is grim and dark. Fincher seems to get a certain smooth style that’s almost like he’s filmed it on silk! The characters are flawed with fantastic dialogue and raw emotions that include believable mistakes and organic verbal or physical outbursts. He brings the best out of his cast and every scene of the first half is memorable and important but also feels like you could be a fly on the wall with no sense of over-staging an event. The first half of the story feels natural and with such a relevant theme this makes it incredibly chilling. The beginning half of the film actually flows so well it’s like a drink for your eyes!
The music is done by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross and is the third time they have worked with Fincher. Fincher said he wanted music representing an “insincere fascade” such as that you would hear in a medical facility and feel like you’re being forced to believe that everything is ok. Reznor is a famed minimalist and his work here is fantastic, by using only a few notes and mostly electrical noise he creates an unsettling meloday like a disjointed song being disrupted by an outside source. It is a perfectly crafted soundtrack to a twisted suburbia.
The cast are on top form and one of the film’s greatest triumphs, Affleck plays the Alpha male, frustrating in his flaws but genuine and amiable. Some jokes about his chin and even his wooden acting are nice touches and he plays then lost everyday man well despite hiding the growing physique of a budding Batman, it’s almost as if…… Affleck also does a fantastic job of the understated lies, the frustratingly lazy attitude to situations and his shockingly realistic and human mistakes. Pike is superb as Amy Elliot-Dunne from the helplessly loved up wife to the scarred child as her parents turn her childhood into ‘Amazing Amy’, a character in her books who is a prodigy. Amy claims the character has always been “one step ahead of her” in every facet of life and although this is a fascinating part of her character it is never leaned upon but without being dismissed. Her resentment of her parent’s money as they ‘literally ” plagiarize her life” says enough and you can link her to her behaviours without the film slamming it into your face like a mallet of character development. They have good chemistry for better or worse and plenty of cute but not sickening stories and in-jokes such as Affleck covering his “sinister” chin or the anniversary treasure hunt.
The support cast are also brilliant, Margo (Coon) is an instant favourite as the disillusioned, honest and devoted twin sister as she is given a gem of a part and relishes every bit. She is gifted with some of the best lines without over doing it like some comedy relief and pours herself into every emotive scene. Tanner Bolt (Perry) is also a goldmine as he plays a defense attorney supporting Nick with some fantastic and memorable lines. Perry does a great job of making Bolt likeable and important, this is impressive as he is shown to be almost infamous for supporting men accused of murdering their wives and seems to be sometimes jovial even as Nick’s life falls apart. Desi Collins is a mysterious man from Amy’s past and is played by Harris perfectly well and compliments scenes without stealing any. Rhonda Boney (Dickens) is a great addition and not just for a cheap giggle at her name, Dickens makes her the focused, sometimes funny and believable. She is charming and beliveable,kind of like a dark and gritty version of Marge Gunderson from Fargo.
The story starts off at a steady pace and the time flew for me as you twist and turn in the labyrinth of perception and revelations. You become instantly involved with every character and flashbacks to Nick and Amy’s early years are heartwarming as their a darkly preemptive of the film’s current events. The clever device of Amy’s flashbacks through her diary also make you feel intimately close to this couple.You begin to grasp ownership on the tragedy of her disappearance but also on their relationship as cracks appear, sides are drawn and you begin to place blame.
The second half of the film is where for me the story falters as some revelations are impacting but others are made far too early and the answers to some questions that i clambered for are frustratingly served up without warning. Then the story searches for drama and begins to get a little ridiculous and the over the top nature dissolves some of the bond set up between the audience and the world of the movie. A gruesome sex scene is interjected and changed from the book and feels a little needless and gratuitous, while some awful language and violence in the film feels natural and shocking this just seems forced. Some characters scenes of Amy’s in the final half are important to the story but i wanted to skip them as the momentum was lost and the atmosphere became drab. Some of the characters are a little too accepting of the horrors and banter with Affleck’s character when trapped in a horrofic situation. This is unrealistic and damages the tension otherwise built up so well.
The final quarter picks up again with a free way cat of mouse between Nick, Amy’s disappearance and the police. You are drawn in as even some scenes you see at the beginning are called into question and you get lost in your own distorted view. A fantastic commentary on the power of perception is set up as Nick begins to play the media for his own benefit, this is rarely too heavy handed as revelations occur that change your perception of the characters along the way and the point that we believe what we see is hard to dispute.
The ending will stay with you and cause discussion which is what it should. In my eyes it was not what i was hoping for, but it’s a ballsy ending and it is hauntingly brilliant. This is a story of how we interact, how we are perceived and how we can be trapped by this and never has that point been driven home so resoundingly.
The Verdict: Just like it’s characters the film is flawed but involving. A brilliantly made and well acted story that may sometimes lose it’s way in unrealistic plot devices but without a doubt it reaches it’s goal.