Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB.
USA, 2014. Twentieth Century Fox, Regency Enterprises, TSG Entertainment. Screenplay by Gillian Flynn, based on her novel. Cinematography by Jeff Cronenweth. Produced by Cean Chaffin, Joshua Donen, Arnon Milchan, Reese Witherspoon. Music by Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross. Production Design by Donald Graham Burt. Costume Design by Trish Summerville. Film Editing by Kirk Baxter. Academy Awards 2014. Golden Globe Awards 2014. National Board of Review Awards 2014. Phoenix Film Critics Awards 2014. Washington Film Critics Awards 2014.
Ben Affleck comes home to find his wife missing and his furniture destroyed, immediately assuming she has been kidnapped and/or murdered. He brings in the police and they start to investigate, but it is not long before local gossip and media frenzy hikes up the case to a nationwide bonanza of opportunism: thanks to his hiding his conflicted emotions behind a glib public persona, Affleck becomes the prime suspect, while the audience is privy to entries from the diary of his missing wife (Rosamund Pike) that describe their happy past and miserable present and do not help his case one bit. Even we as an audience are unsure of where this skillfully plotted, endlessly juicy mystery-melodrama will take us next, and in the hands of David Fincher the massive plotting, adapted by Gillian Flynn from her runaway best-selling novel, is maneuvered with impressively slick efficiency and control. The actual secrets revealed are too good to be spoiled, but suffice it to say that what occurs is as enjoyable as it is provocative, using a passion for methodical detail that encompasses such contemporary (and yet timeless) themes as the role of the economy in interpersonal relationships, how society feels about women who manipulate perceptions of women’s assumed vulnerability for their own pleasure (like Chicago but without the singing), plus for good measure the role that public opinion has on matters of law and order. The only flaw, and an easily overlooked one, is a colourless performance by Affleck, whose idea of playing an emotionally guarded man is to be monotoned and shallow for three hours; there’s little difference between his younger single self and older, disappointed husband, and not much going on behind the mask. Pike, on the other hand, dances circles around him as the woman who takes up as much room in their giant empty house gone as she did when she was still around, while those who love the metallic sheen that results from Fincher using cinematographer Jeff Cronenweth and composers Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, as he did in The Social Network and The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, will enjoy their perfectly suited application to Flynn’s twisty narrative.