Let’s get this out of the way first: no, it’s not as good as the book. But it comes pretty darn close.
The issue with adapting Gone Girl is the importance of the meta-narrative. The idea of the ‘voice’ of the author is integral to the plot and its twists. On screen, this just doesn’t quite have the same impact.
That said, if anyone knows their way around a thriller, it’s David Fincher - this isn't the first time he's adapted a crime thriller novel. And with the screenplay written by author Gillian Flynn, this is a faithful (if streamlined) adaptation.
As the title suggests, this is a mystery film concerning a missing wife and her perhaps not entirely innocent husband. It plays out to the backdrop of the recession-hit deep south of America: washed out, desolate, bleak.
However, plot is integral to enjoying the film – needless to say there are no spoilers here. This is a narrative that explores the truth behind marriage and asks us to question if we ever really know what our spouse is thinking? And, as an audience member, can we really trust the narrator? This is a provocative, bloody and psychological thriller that, additionally, satirises the fickle nature of the media and its involvement in missing persons cases.
It’s perfect Fincher then, and has the sort of stylish, uncluttered visuals you’d expect. The majority of the film happens at night, lighting the sombre darkness with an eerie yellow glow, the action occurring in the shadows. Each frame is beautifully constructed, with a considered pace and measured editing that not only provide lucidity to the narrative, but also reflect the calculating mind-games behind it.
Fans of the novel should be happy with the casting. Ben Affleck is well suited to the role of Nick: wholesome and just handsome enough, whilst not being entirely trustworthy. Rosamund Pike is left with the difficult job of personifying the complex Amy, yet the almost sinister, deep register of her voice and her blank expressions fit with the psychopathic nature of the character: hollow, empty yet full of dry humour. Together, it’s a clear case of opposites attract.
Elsewhere, Carrie Coon plays a boisterous Margo (Nick’s sister), Tyler Perry a smooth Tanner Bolt (his lawyer), and Kim Dickens balances good and bad cop as Detective Rhonda Boney. On the flip side, Neil Patrick Harris isn’t given enough screen time to develop the slimy Desi Collings.
The film is perhaps less nuanced than the book and tends to favour Nick’s view over Amy’s. Thematically, too, the pessimistic view of love and marriage – and the madness they inspire – may leave you cold. Yet the less you know before watching the film the better. Just know this: Gone Girl is a disturbing yet thought-provoking film that’s quite possibly the best thriller of the year.
Watch: Gone Girl is out now.
Watch: Gone Girl is out now.