gone girlGillian Flynn’s 2012 novel Gone Girl was an immediate success and quickly became one of those novels everyone was talking about. The story of Nick and Amy Dunne contained all of the trappings of a top notch thriller, and it was only a matter of time (1 month to be exact) that the story would be optioned for a movie deal. 2 years after publication, Gone Girl has hit the big screen and in a big, big way.

Gone Girl is a fragmented and psychological thriller that depicts the ups and downs of a marriage in the midst of the disappearance of wife, Amy Dunne (Rosamund Pike). Amy’s disappearance quickly becomes a tabloid phenomenon and husband Nick (Ben Affleck) is thrust into the spotlight as the hunt for Amy turns into a national affair. As Nick’s life is picked apart by public scrutiny it is not long before Detective Rhonda Boney (Kim Dickens) and Officer Jim Gilpin (Patrick Fugit) suspect foul play. Now Nick, and sister Margo (Carrie Coon) are in the middle of a media frenzy fueled by the court of public opinion. Clues, red herrings, left turns and twists a plenty ensue resulting in this year’s most entertaining and engrossing film thus far.

Director David Fincher is no stranger to the strange and psychological given some of his films like Se7en, The Game, and more recently Zodiac. Nor is he a stranger to adapting ultra popular best selling novels like Fight Club and 2011’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Fincher’s style fits Gone Girl like a pair of mysterious red panties and though Fincher saw tremendous success with his Oscar winning film The Social Network, this may be his strongest overall film to date.

Fincher certainly has fans of the novel in mind in this adaptation. While Flynn adapted her own novel for the screenplay, Fincher captures the novel’s tone beautifully keeping the audience at the edge of their seats for the film’s entire 149 minute running time. Comparisons to Hitchcock have been made in the past and while techniques vary, Fincher’s pacing, camera work, and tremendous use of score are very reminiscent of the great master of suspense.

And then there’s the acting! Affleck and Pike are perfect in this film. The nuances, layers, and personalities of Flynn’s characters are fully realized in both lead performances. Mystery thrillers are far more dependent on proper characterization than virtually any other genre and these performances make way for some of the most satisfying twists since The Usual Suspects. Supporting work from Tyler Perry and Neil Patrick Harris, among others, also help elevate this film.

Gone Girl is a triumph of modern cinema and one of the few films shot digitally that still manages to achieve the murkiness and grittiness of film. Cinematographer Jeff Cronenweth has worked with Fincher on four films, and he and Fincher have developed a distinctive and characteristic style that works very well. My one criticism of Fincher’s films is that he often drops the ball during his films’ final acts. Films like The Game, Fight Club, Panic Room, and even The Curious Case of Benjamin Button all kind of fizzle out at the end. Now with a film where its success almost entirely rests on its final act, Fincher finally puts my nit-picks to rest indefinitely. This is an excellent start to the fall movie season and a film that should kick-start the Oscar conversation both technically and creatively.  A

Gone Girl is rated R and has a running time of 2 hours and 29 minutes.