‘Gone Girl’ – Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike in a deviously fun thriller on Apple TV+

Gillian Flynn adapted her own best-selling novel for David Fincher’s Gone Girl (2014), a deviously entertaining thriller that gleefully tears the cover off a storybook romance to reveal a disillusioned marriage that has collapsed into betrayal, suspicion, vengeance, and high stakes mind games.

Ben Affleck is perfectly cast as Nick Dunne, once a rising young star of New York journalism, and Rosamund Pike is his golden girl wife Amy, the inspiration for a series of children’s books written by her parents. As long as they are rubbing elbows in the Big Apple’s literary circles and with the social elite, they are the golden couple. But when bad investments and family crisis sends them out Manhattan and into a small, anonymous Missouri town, where Nick toils teaching at a second-rate college, the façade of the perfect marriage collapses under real life.

Then Amy suddenly goes missing and Nick, first seen as the desperate husband begging for the public’s help, becomes the prime suspect when Amy’s diary reveals him as a hostile man she has become desperately afraid of. As the detectives (Kim Dickens and Patrick Fugit) dig under the surface of their seemingly happy marriage, they find troubling evidence that implicates Nick.

Presented through the alternating narrative voices of Nick and Amy (via flashbacks and diary entries), it’s a mix of twisty murder mystery, psychological thriller, and savagely satirical portrait of a marriage soured into resentment and rebellion. He’s having an affair with a gorgeous young student while she seems to have a secret life. Then comes the first twist (best stumbled upon without spoilers), which upends our understanding of just exactly what’s going on.

Fincher’s exacting direction is a perfect fit for this complex story, and not just for his storytelling gifts. He draws on Affleck’s own legacy to help create a character both sympathetic and suspicious, and he helps Pike (in her first starring role) shine as she reveals a calculating mind behind the social poise of the perfect wife. Carrie Coon is wonderfully spiky as Nick’s utterly loyal, straight-shooting sister and Tyler Perry brings a sense of gravitas to the high-powered attorney that Nick hires when the investigation turns to him and public opinion convicts him before he even steps into a courtroom.

Gone Girl is as smart as it is compelling, a wild ride as a mystery and a wickedly entertaining portrait of a marriage between two people who really don’t know each other. The real mystery is just who they really are under their carefully-sculpted social fronts. Beneath the social satire and dark wit, we find out just how perfect these two shallow yet savvy people are for one another.

Neil Patrick Harris is memorable as an ex-boyfriend whose fixation on Amy takes a dark turn and Missi Pyle, Emily Ratajkowski, Casey Wilson, and Lola Kirke costar.

Rosamund Pike earned an Oscar nomination for her performance, as well as nominations from BAFTA and the Screen Actors Guild.

Rated R

Also on Blu-ray and DVD and on SVOD through Amazon Video, iTunes, GooglePlay, Vudu and/or other services. Availability may vary by service.
Gone Girl [Blu-ray]
Gone Girl [DVD]

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Sean Axmaker is a Seattle film critic and writer. He writes the weekly newspaper column Stream On Demand and the companion website, and his work appears at RogerEbert.com, Turner Classic Movies online, The Film Noir Foundation, and Parallax View.

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