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Gone Girl

Year: 2014
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Director: David Fincher
Producer: Arnon Milchan/Reese Witherspoon
Writer: Gillian Flynn
Cast: Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike, Neil Patrick Harris, Tyler Perry, Kim Dickens, Patrick Fugit

I don't know if it's because Fincher's done so many adaptations or just because he's been making movies about domestic dramas lately, but I've become less impressed with his output.

It's not the subject matter that's the issue with Gone Girl (or was with The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo ), because he made a bunch of computer geeks building a website thrilling in The Social Network and the cold trail of the search for a murderer thrilling in Zodiac.

And his technique and command of the image is just as masterful in Gone Girl. It just all seems a little bit like a much better director came in to do an episode of Days of Our Lives. It's essentially a story that's far less about visuals than it is Hitchcockian turns in the narrative.

So like The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (the source material, not the final product), it's a twisty potboiler than didn't really need someone as talented as Fincher to bring it to life. There are even some dramatic flaws that are usually way beneath a director of his calibre. The uneasy pact that's settled upon in the third act especially stretches dramatic credibility.

You can't talk much about the story short of what you've seen in the trailer without blowing the whole gag. Mild mannered Nick (Ben Affleck) becomes a minor celebrity when his gorgeous wife Amy (Rosamund Pike) goes missing.

Nick isn't a suspect at first, but in the hands of the cluey detective looking into the case and with hordes of media camped outside the house day and night, there's plenty of stuff about his story that doesn't add up. Among the clues they have to go on is a romantic treasure hunt Amy set up for him, his father's run down house, a burnt diary and claims Nick makes about Amy's life that just don't ring true.

Finally Nick is charged with Amy's murder even though there's no body and seemingly still no motive. As soon as that happens the master plan behind the disappearance is all given away in such a rush, delivered so procedurally and didactically it made me wonder if it was a dream sequence designed to throw you off the scent or something.

Or maybe Fincher (and author/screenwriter Flynn) is fooling us all. Maybe the plot is just the framework on which to hang a scathing satire of modern media where the power of the press is only too happy to bestow heroism or victimhood where they might not belong. Nick becomes a Kardashian-like figure, so famous for no real reason that people want to take selfies with him.

That seems to be the m.o. of the story itself as we ask (for most of the way through it, at least) ; did he or didn't he?

As Fincher has said, maybe his version of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea would indeed have been a Disney construct to herd audiences like cattle. But at least with his style – as chilly and clean as it is artful – we might have had a truly great blockbuster for adults.

If the Heavy Metal redux ever happens I'll be as interested in him as I used to be but right now, he's losing me.

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