CONTAINS SPOILERS, INCLUDING A FEW MAJOR ONES
These days I take a pretty dim view of the marketing of movies that are more than a month away, because I just can't stay excited about something that distant for that long, and the constant hyping of films that aren't yet finished just gets boring after a while. But in the sense that I still look forward to films at all beyond that arbitrary time limit, a new David Fincher thriller is, like a new Mann or De Palma or Tarantino (or even an Argento), something that still piques the interest. Even though Fincher has been off the boil of late, with his entirely redundant stab at The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo and the tiresome The Social Network (sorry, but I'm incapable of giving a toss about smug millionaires squabbling over a website), you still hope. You hope in the way that Argento has another Tenebrae in him or De Palma another Dressed To Kill, that Fincher has another Se7en. Hell, you'll settle for another Alien 3 at this point.
Well, maybe he has, but not this time around: Gone Girl is alright, but not much more than that and it ends up as a disappointment. Has Ben Affleck murdered his wife Rosamund Pike and then made it look like an abduction, or has she genuinely been taken? Initially it does look like a simple disappearance, but gradually it seems that he may not be as innocent as he seems: the life insurance, the credit cards, the accusations of domestic violence in her diary. As Affleck's protestations grow ever less believable with every new revelation - not least his affair with one of his teenage students - and the media circus swarms around him, will the real truth ever come out?
I haven't read the book, but judging from the conversation between a couple of ladies behind me as I left the cinema, it sounds like it generally sticks fairly close. It's enjoyably twisty fare, playing with your loyalties between wifebeating, adulterous husband and treacherous, deceitful wife, and I liked spending the first chunk of the movie not sure whose side I was on. Still, mine not to spoil, but neither side of the central marital conflict comes out blameless: eventually I skewed towards Team Affleck, not because of any idiotic notion of gender solidarity but because Team Pike's crimes ultimately seem far more serious, even though she's far more interesting a character than he is. And the ending seems to punish him more than her, which felt unfair given what she'd done, and thus unsatisfying. It's difficult to detail the occasional plot niggles without revealing significant plot details, but it did leave me wondering how long it would be before certain supporting characters came forward and exposed the whole pack of lies (specifically, people who should have recognised Rosamund Pike).
Matters might have been helped if Fincher had hired one of his old composers like Howard Shore or Elliot Goldenthal to write the soundtrack: proper film composers who know the difference between a bassoon and a farting horse. Instead he's gone with Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, who don't. Rather than actual music, they've provided another tedious dronescape that gives the film precisely zero dramatic support, is sometimes actively distracting, and has the musical qualities of listening to some dial-up modems and old fridges. If you come out of the cinema humming the Gone Girl soundtrack people will just assume you've got some kind of bowel disorder. I've actually listened to most of the soundtrack album playing on Spotify since seeing the film and it took about 15 minutes for a genuinely recognisable musical sound to show up: a piano, and that piano line is doing nothing remarkable. A bolder and much more imaginative choice (and a choice scarcely less harmful to the drama) would have been to have no score at all.
It's smart, it looks great and it's also well played: I usually like Rosamund Pike anyway and she's got a lot to do here, and the big surprise is seeing Tyler Perry, best known for dressing up as an old woman in at least a dozen Madea movies that haven't been released in the UK and that pointless Alex Cross movie, stealing the best moments as a defence lawyer. One can understand the 18 certificate given one scene in particular, which harks back to Basic Instinct in its mix of sex and violence, and there's a sudden burst of "very strong language" (the C-word) towards the end which felt a little out of place, but much of the time it's fairly measured and serious and makes you wonder again how The Equalizer got away with a 15. The running time may look daunting, but it's well paced and I don't mind a hefty length of 149 minutes if it's from a director who knows what he's doing (a Uwe Boll film that runs for two and a half hours is not an appetising prospect). Overall I kind of liked the movie while still feeling disappointed with it: it's good but not great, worth seeing but there are annoyances in there.