Gone Girl (2014)

gone1Gone Girl is a fine thriller, elevated no end by Rosamund Pike’s great performance which in most other years might well have been awarded an Oscar- she’s that good. On the face of it, the premise of the film is fairly simple- revolving around the mysterious disappearance of Amy Elliott-Dunne (Rosamund Pike) and her husband Nick (Ben Affleck) who increasingly begins to fall under suspicion of her possible murder. There is of course an inevitable twist but surprisingly this comes mid-way through the film, from which point the film almost becomes another film entirely. Its a good film but due to its nature its one I can’t discuss freely without heading into spoiler-territory.

The only point I can really make is regarding the film’s soundtrack by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross. David Fincher has seemingly become infatuated with ambient soundscapes in his movies (the pair having scored his last three movies now) and while it might serve Fincher’s purpose, I suspect you could run this film minus any of its music score and not notice any difference at all. Its that kind of score. Which is all well and good, but I prefer music that’s almost a character in the film; scores like Poledouris’ Conan The Barbarian or Hermann’s Vertigo or even, for a more recent example, Zimmer’s Interstellar. Music that is an integral part of the film and its sense of character- Reznor’s score here is more of a drone with the odd bit of tune hidden away in its mix, and is pretty much redundant. It is what it is. But the fact that Fincher seems to be more in favour of this style when his earlier films had such great scores as Goldenthal’s Alien 3 or Shore’s Seven or the Dust Brother’s Fight Club… well its rather disheartening.
gone2And really that’s my biggest beef with Gone Girl- Fincher himself. This is the guy after all, who directed Alien 3, the unfairly-maligned result of a troubled production that is a beautifully-shot elegy on death, moody and stark with great performances, wonderful music, great photography and sets…. its a great failure. Its got balls, and is easily the most interesting of all the sequels to Alien. This is the guy who directed Seven, as brutally dark a film as you’ll ever see, a fascinating thriller that’s pretty much the definitive serial-killer movie. Again, great score, great performances, beautifully shot, a film, again, with balls. And then of course we have Fight Club, one of the boldest, mind-bogglingly ballsy movies to come out of Hollywood, ever. The very least you could say of these movies is that Fincher was pushing the envelope, and proving himself something of a maverick director. If Alien 3 failed, it wasn’t really down to Fincher, and the workprint version at least hints at what might have been had the suits left him alone. His next two films were great, classic films.

I’m not going to suggest that his subsequent movies weren’t any good, I’m a big fan of Zodiac in particular, but Fincher seems to be settling down to a routine of thrillers that are competently made but nowhere near as bold as his early films. He seems to be mirroring the career-trajectory of Ridley Scott, whose own best films can easily be argued to be his first three, from which he himself settled into often pedestrian fare.

Gone Girl is a good film, but I have the feeing it would be just as good a film with anyone else directing it. Fincher should be making films only he could make. He should be making a Dune or Rendezvous With Rama or his own Unforgiven, by which I mean a genre film that turns things on its head and says something new. I don’t think his last few films have, and though I’d like to think his future projects will, at the moment that’s getting a little dubious. The promise of a Fincher film used to excite me, but that’s worn off now, sadly.


6 thoughts on “Gone Girl (2014)

  1. gregory moss

    I agree with you about the score, it was kinda’ redundant. And yeah, I’d love to see Fincher tackle another full-blown sci-fi like Rama. He was also attached to a remake of 20 Thousand Leagues Under The Sea for a while. And I just learned he is developing a remake of Hitchcock’s Strangers On A Train with the writer of Gone Girl, but I feel Fincher is beginning to risk being labelled ‘one note’ if he continues to stay in the thriller genre.

  2. Matthew McKinnon

    I think you’ve nailed it here. When I try to think of a word to describe Fincher now, it’s probably “elusive”.
    There’s something going on there, but it’s constantly hiding, slipping through your fingers, afraid to fully emerge. Maybe the terrible “Benjamin Button” – the last time he made a big, showy movie – scared him off, and he’s context to bury himself in expertly made potboilers.

    I, too, would like to see him tackle some sci-fi. Someone is developing a script based on Ted Chiang’s remarkable short story “Understand” – that would be an incredible Fincher film, if it hadn’t had its ideas ripped off in the atrocious “Limitless” and “Lucy” recently.

    The Scott comparison is a good one, only it’d be Scott around 1990, with “Someone To Watch Over Me” and “Black Rain” just under his belt.

  3. Yeah, back at the time I watched Someone To Watch Over Me at the old ABC cinema in town and had such a WTF moment. It was like Ridley had sold out or something. I’m getting the same feeling with Fincher now. Sad really.

  4. I’m reminded of Tarantino’s observation that even great directors stop doing interesting work after six or seven films. I’m not sure it’s wholly true, but there are definitely examples to support it.

    I’m baffled that some people reckon Gone Girl might be Fincher’s best film. I liked it, but it’s not in the same league as Se7en, Fight Club or Zodiac. That said, I do think it maintains a Fincher stamp — I don’t think it initially seems to have that dark Fincher-ness when compared to some of the areas he’s plumbed previously, but, when you think about it, a lot of it really is. There were scenes I can’t imagine another relatively-mainstream director keeping in, or certainly not in the same way.

    Re: the score, I can’t even remember it now, so I’m with you there. That said, I was a big fan of Reznor & Ross’ work on The Social Network, where I might argue it was “almost a character in the film”. Not here, though (and I’ve not got round to Dragon Tattoo, still, but it is on TV next week so maybe over the weekend).

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