Gone Girl – Film Review

Gone Girl

I’m not* going to attempt a full review of Gone Girl because I feel like there is so much loud praise for the film it really doesn’t need my feeble voice added to the mix. Having been to see it earlier this week however I can’t just say nothing. I am a blogger and so I must blog. For those unaware Gone Girl is the story of Nick and Amy Dunne (Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike) a couple in an imperfect marriage. The film begins as Amy goes missing and Nick finds himself in a media whirlwind as suspicions run rampant. Did Nick murder his wife?

As someone who has read Gillian Flynn’s original novel I came to the film with certain expectations. My brain had already done its own casting, built all the sets, and written the score. I was also already aware of the satisfying reveal that comes neatly at the centre of both novel and film providing a perspective shift and keeping the questions running through your mind from getting too repetitive.

Luckily David Fincher must have peered into my mind as a lot of what I saw on-screen matched my imagination. As a result I wasn’t wasting any time mentally complaining about the layout of a house or colour of someone’s shirt. I had been slightly worried about the casting of Neil Patrick Harris as Amy’s obsessive ex Desi Collings but I was proved wrong as Harris gave the perfect performance as a pathetic but controlling man. Similarly Affleck and Pike fit their roles to a tee; neither being wholly likeable or trustworthy but both proving enigmatic despite their failure to generate sympathy. Trying to read the machinations behind their eyes is a game you are unlikely to win.

Gone Girl - Rosamund Pike

My only disappointment with Gone Girl is that I could not watch the film from a completely uninformed point of view and experience each twist and turn with fresh eyes. Regardless of this Gone Girl was a gripping thriller that had me second guessing myself to the end. It may not be Fincher’s finest but is certainly in the better half of his body of work. Gillian Flynn has made good work of adapting her own book; her faithful approach to the text will satisfy diehard fans fearing Hollywood sabotage and cinephiles shouldn’t detect any first-time screenwriter foibles.

Fans of the book will love Gone Girl. Fans of Fincher will too. It’s rare to get a proper 18 certificate film these days and Gone Girl certainly doesn’t shy away from showing you the seedier elements of the story. Dark, tense, and deeply engrossing you will find it hard to tear your eyes away from the screen but at times might need to look away for some relief.

See this as soon as possible or risk having a carefully plotted, if slightly implausible, film spoiled for you.

Gone Girl is in UK cinemas from today.

*Or at least I wasn’t planning to

Argo – LFF Review

In 1979 the American Embassy in Tehran was invaded by Iranian students and militants. For more than a year the American civil servants who worked in the Embassy are held hostage in the building in which they used to work. Just as the Embassy was invaded six diplomats managed to escape. Initially taken in by the Canadian ambassador the escapees become the subjects of a bizarre and fantastical rescue mission by the CIA.

Argo is a strange beast. The film opens with the American Embassy being stormed and six characters with bad haircuts escape amidst panic and violence. The tone is set for a serious drama about a serious international political event. As we are introduced to the CIA, and most importantly Ben Affleck as CIA specialist Tony Mendez, the tone remains serious – the six escapees must be rescued or all manner of unpleasant things might happen. However the minute John Goodman as John Chambers, Hollywood make-up expert and CIA… make-up artist, enters the film alongside Alan Arkin as film producer Lester Siegel the films starts to mix its tense drama with tongue-in-cheek Hollywood satire.

The plan that Mendez is pushing is one in which he, Chambers, and Siegel fake the production of a Sci-Fi adventure filming in Iran so that the six fugitives can be smuggled out of the country. As events in Iran are treated with a po-faced frown the parallel exploits of the characters (and I do mean characters!), are a light-hearted sideways look at Hollywood hype and many a line is delivered in such a way that Goodman and Arkin may as well turn to camera and give a knowing nod and wink.

With this odd mix of tones Affleck (taking on directing duties too) risks making a film that jars and fails to fully convey the seriousness of the real-life drama at its heart. Somehow Affleck actually makes this work with the silly Hollywood segments serving as a light relief to the endless angst and worrying from the characters (this time with no distinct personalities at all) in Iran. Argo is the perfect mix of humour and drama; it gives you a dramatic situation to keep you hooked but keeps you genuinely entertained as events unfold.

One place Argo does misjudge things (ignoring some historical inaccuracies) are in its climax. As the plan reaches fruition and the motley crew finally try to leave Iran we are presented with a seemingly endless stream of near miss disasters. Absolutely nothing happens until the absolutely last possible second. Even their plane tickets home aren’t confirmed until the woman checking them in has searched the bookings once. The film is tense enough without every “will they make it?” moment being followed by another five.

Argo is a rare example of the fun historical/political drama and is in UK cinemas 7th November 2012.