Gone Girl

 

Gone Girl is one of the year’s best films. Unexpectedly strong performances from the leads Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike are the centerpiece of the latest from consistently adept storyteller, director David Fincher.

Gillian Flynn adapted her own massively successful novel into a screenplay that reveals plot points gradually while giving shape and form to the complex personalities of Nick Dunne (Affleck) and his wife Amy (Pike).

Nick and Amy live in the river town of North Carthage, Missouri. (The film was shot on location in Cape Girardeau.) They moved from New York to Nick’s hometown to be with his mother as she faced breast cancer. Nick co-owns a bar in the town with his twin sister Margo (Carrie Coon).

On their anniversary, Amy disappears. Police find clues—including signs of a struggle–in the couples’ home, but no body. Because the home is a crime scene, Nick moves in with Margo. As often happens when a wife disappears, speculation about the husband’s guilt spreads. In Gone Girl, it ignites discussion on a Nancy Grace type TV show.

As the investigation proceeds, detective Boney (Kim Dickens) plays by the book to build a case but her sidekick officer Gilpin (Patrick Fugit) is eager to arrest Nick. When public opinion turns against him, Nick brings in attorney Tanner Bolt (Tyler Perry) to advise him. Meanwhile, as the search continues, Amy’s old boyfriend Desi (Neil Patrick Harris) moves from the background to the foreground.

Among the supporting cast, Coon and Perry are strongest. Dickens delivers her dialogue in a truly authentic Southern accent. Harris is low key and coolly straightforward, almost distractingly so.

Apart from being a police procedural that causes a viewer to wonder about the outcome, Gone Girl paints a telling picture of a troubled marriage. Both husband and wife are shown to have character flaws. Their courtship and the early days of their marriage are shown via flashback. Amy’s diary entries, which she reads in voiceover, provide the audience with her takes on married life.

The soundtrack from Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross is genius. Early on, the sounds are ethereal, dreamily romantic. But as things get serious, the music turns darker.

Clearly, Fincher has not only assembled talented individuals on and off camera, but also has obtained supreme efforts from all involved. The result is an excellent movie which, despite its nearly 2-and-a-half hour run time, never drags. See it and be careful what you say afterward. No spoilers.

 

 

Jack Reacher

Jack Reacher is a good action adventure procedural with a plotline that gets a bit convoluted. But everything works out in the end, with some help from a friend.

This film’s big problem is that it begins with a sniper using a high-powered rifle to take out five individuals. Should its release have been delayed after Newtown? Stay tuned for the blowback.

The sniper sets up in a Pittsburgh parking garage and shoots across the Allegheny River with deadly accuracy. When evidence points to one particular guy, that guy (a former military sniper) writes on a pad, “Get Jack Reacher.” Reacher, played by Tom Cruise, is a former Army policeman with a sketchy background who sets out to find the real killer.

He gets help from the district attorney’s estranged daughter, played by former Bond girl Rosamund Pike. The DA is played by Richard Jenkins, who is rapidly becoming one of Hollywood’s most dependable character actors. The daughter, Helen, claims her law firm wants to represent the alleged perp because her dad intimidates too many suspects into forced confessions. Flimsy reason, but without it, the film would have no blonde babe eye candy.

Reacher and Helen gather info on the victims and analyze the evidence. Meanwhile, they are forced to deal with bad guys who want to take them out of the picture, for reasons to be revealed later. Of course there’s a chase scene and it’s a good one that ends with Reacher’s clever escape.

Based on the alleged perp’s charge card bills, which show large gasoline purchases on weekends, Reacher suspects the guy had been driving to distant shooting ranges. Voila! When he finds the range where the guy shot targets, he gets vital information from and forms a vital association with the guy who runs the range, played by Robert Duvall.

As things get sorted out in the end, Duvall’s character provides an important helping hand and a spark of humor.

Wait, was there something missing in this movie? Yes! There’s no love scene between Cruise and Pike! Not even a kiss! The sexual tension that builds between them throughout the movie remains unfulfilled. Maybe something will happen in Jack Reacher II. (Yes, this feels like the first in a series.)

One more thing: I’ve never thought of Pittsburgh as a cool city. But the Steel Town looks good in this film, as well as in The Perks of Being a Wallflower and The Dark Knight Rises. But that Iron City Beer still sucks.