With millions of expectant readers awaiting the film adaptation of Gone Girl with bated breath, the pressure was well and truly on for director David Fincher. His source material is beloved by fans worldwide, and with each casting announcement and plot detail weighed up and scrutinised, expectations are sky high. The good news? Fincher, and his cast of Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike, have delivered. Based on the film’s first reviews, this re-imagining is good. Seriously good.
For the uninitiated, Gillian Flynn’s novel opens on the fifth wedding anniversary of Nick and Amy Dunne. Once a golden couple, job layoffs and dwindling finances have seen the Dunnes swap their New York lifestyle for Nick’s sleepy Missouri hometown. As they celebrate five, increasingly unhappy years of marriage, Amy goes missing and Nick finds himself the main suspect. But is either account of their relationship a truthful one? Flynn’s twisting, suspenseful yarn had readers gripped and topped bestsellers lists when it was released in 2012 – and now it looks like the film is headed straight for the box office summit.
Variety’s chief film critic, Justin Chang, writes, “Director David Fincher and stars Rosamund Pike and Ben Affleck are at the top of their game in this mesmerising adaptation of Gillan Flynn’s novel.”
He continues: “this taut yet expansive psychological thriller represents an exceptional pairing of filmmaker and material, fully expressing Fincher’s cynicism about the information age and his abiding fascination with the terror and violence lurking beneath the surfaces of contemporary American life.”
The Hollywood Reporter’s review praises Flynn – who also wrote the screenplay – for doing “a fine job of boiling her cleverly structured story down to the essentials, doing the necessary trimming but retaining everything her fans will want to see.”
There is plenty of praise for Affleck – “who has never been more ideally cast” – and “powerful and commanding” Pike, with special mention afforded to the “wonderfully chosen supporting players” including Neil Patrick Harris (as Amy’s first boyfriend Desi Collins), Carrie Coon (playing Nick’s twin sister Margot) and Tyler Perry as hot shot lawyer Tanner Bolt.
The Wrap’s James Rocchi pays tribute to Fincher’s sense of humour: “Not only brutal but also brutally funny, Gone Girl mixes top-notch suspenseful storytelling with the kind of razor-edged wit that slashes so quick and clean you’re still watching the blade go past before you notice you’re bleeding.”
Noting Pike’s ascendance to leading lady status, he continues, “the author’s clever, cruel and cool work also gives Pike the role of a lifetime in the shining, secretive Amy, while still making her human and comprehensive.”
Indiwire’s Michael Nordine is the only reviewer to express major misgivings: “Fincher prides himself on turning coal into diamonds at this point, but Flynn’s script can feel so retrograde at times that one wnders whether it might have been better served by a De Palma, Bigelow, or even a Verhoeven – which is to say, a filmmaker less concerned with making the lascivious seem prestigious.”
Awarding the film a C+, Nordine adds, “Marriage is a primal battle of the sexes in Gone Girl, one in which both sides play dirty and any victories are pyrrhic. Surviving isn’t the same as winning, and getting through this provocative, problematic thriller sometimes feels like a war unto itself.”
Meanwhile, offering Gone Girl four stars is The Telegraph’s Robbie Collin who calls it “a delicious exercise in audience-baiting: what begins as a he-said, she-said story of mounting, murderous suspense, lurches at its fulcrum into a kind of hot mess Brian De Palma might have cooked up 20 years ago in his attic.”
He reserves particular praise for Pike “has waited a decade for a role this juicy… Amy is the best thing Pike has ever done: her performance is taut and poised, and at times almost masque-like. While her diary voiceovers swoon with emotion, her face gives you almost nothing.”
Gone Girl is released in UK cinemas on 2 October 2014