Four years after the release of Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, director David Fincher returns to the big screen with the thrilling adaptation of the best-selling novel that gave a new twist on a missing person’s case, and conveying the message that maybe some marriages can be deadly.
As featured in the book, the film’s story was told from two perspectives: one from the character of Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck) from the time of his wife’s disappearance, and the other from his wife, Amy Dunne (Rosamund Pike), from the years prior to their marriage leading up to the day of her disappearance. As the plot progressed, Nick Dunne’s evasive behaviour and numerous lies became eerily apparent both to the audience, who were discovering Amy’s side of the story, as well as to the rest of the cast who were witnessing a husband who does not seem particularly distressed about his missing wife; especially at the fact that she disappeared on their fifth wedding anniversary. The pressing question that then surfaces is to whether Nick Dunne was truly capable of killing his wife.
Author Gillian Flynn had faithfully adapted her book to the screen, making the two mediums almost identical to the fan’s expectations. David Fincher’s skillful directing enhanced the story with his signature fast-paced editing, quick-dialogue, and meticulously composited shots. The narration of the book was maintained both by voice-over narration and subtle fade-ins and wipes that were unobtrusive to the plot and allowed the perspectives of the husband and wife to be shown in a more simultaneous, rather than episodic fashion, as you would see in the book. Fans of the book (such as myself) will find this a very satisfying adaptation. And even those who have not read the book will highly enjoy this fast-paced thriller that will leave them at the edge of their seats when the shocking twist is revealed halfway through the film.
My only major concern, however, was the casting of the two leads. Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike certainly had the physical attributes required for their roles: beautiful, charming, intelligent, confident, while possessing a mysterious inner-quality that one cannot place as positive or negative. Nevertheless, Ben Affleck’s performance was as wooden as all his performances are, with no charisma or real emotions, which made it very difficult for the viewers to sympathize with his character as you might have in the book. I might even go so far as to say that Tyler Perry (who plays his lawyer, Tanner Bolt) gave a more convincing performance than Affleck in this film. Rosamund Pike was slightly better in the role of Amy Dunne, but her wide eyed-expressions and beautiful smiles made her seem more like a model, rather than a brilliant scholar who has influenced a widely popular series of children’s books her parents had written for her as a child.
Overall, David Fincher’s fast-paced and exquisitely filmed direction, Gillian Flynn’s excellent screenplay adaptation and strong supporting cast (especially Carrie Coon, Kim Dickens, and the always charming Neil Patrick Harris, who play Nick’s twin sister, chief investigator, and ex-boyfriend, respectively), made this film one of the most original, and suspenseful thrillers of 2014. Although it was primarily targeted towards a female audience, fans of Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, Se7en, or even Fight Club will find familiar territory with this film, and the dark twist at the end of the film can be seen as a way of offering a critique on marriage to the audience.