When Gillian Flynn’s novel Gone Girl flew off the shelves back in 2012, it wasn’t long before a big screen adaptation was on the cards. Enter David Fincher. The Zodiac and The Social Network director hits the ground running with this, his tenth feature, and doesn’t stop for a moment to consider the consequences.

Gone Girl is a suburban neo-noir; a dark and at times sadistic exploration of the pitfalls of marriage and the legacy of a twisted love story. At the centre of this psychological thriller (which was adapted for the screen by Flynn herself) is the disintegration of Nick (Ben Affleck; The Town, Argo) and Amy Elliott-Dunne‘s (Rosamund Pike; Die Another Day, Made in Dagenham) marriage.

The New York-based writers appear blissfully happy to family and friends, carrying a facade so sophisticated and calculatedly convincing it fools everyone in their immediate and extended circle of friends and family. However, when the pair are laid off and forced to move back to Nick’s cosy hometown of Missouri, cracks begin to appear.

Early into redundancy, Nick turns to running a bar with his deadpan twin sister Margot (little known theatre actress Carrie Coon), while trophy wife Amy suffers a serious case of cabin fever at home. From the get-go, Fincher sets up a world as mundane as it is eerie, in his distinctively grey and brown colour palette. The film’s pre-empted opening plot is already on the suspenseful verge of disclosure before the titles even finish, as anticipation is aided by an unsettling and reoccurring bee buzz soundscape.

And then it begins.

It’s the day of the couple’s fifth wedding anniversary and Amy has disappeared without a trace. Amy, the real-life “Amazing Amy” of her father’s popular children’s book series, is already well-known for her socialite days; so naturally, her disappearance makes national news and encourages much of America’s media to descend.

The first-half of the film presents two jarring perspectives, daring us to pick sides. There’s Amy’s diary-entries – romantic, nostalgic recounts of a happy union; and then there’s Nick’s inability to hide his dislike for his missing wife – a sentiment obviously condemned by investigating media and police (spearheaded by Kim Dickens as deliciously suspicious Detective Rhonda Boney).

Whether you’ve read the novel or not, Gone Girl as a film is much more confronting than fellow procedural thrillers. The characters are extremely complex and unpredictable and lead us up many garden paths throughout. There are moments of true horror and disgust (contained to a few particularly violent scenes), but Fincher manages to mesmerise even amongst the grotesque.

The power of this film comes from the unreliable narrations and performances of its strong, venomous leads. The he-said-she-said plot basis is explored on a much deeper level, as one is never entirely sure who said what and whether they even meant any of it. For much of the film it’s hard to like anyone, and this is part of the charm.

In terms of acting merits, both Affleck and Pike are at their career-defining best as Nick and Amy. Affleck – known more for his unexplainable lack of popularity than anything else – is a perfect fit as Nick. On the surface, he conveys the type of high school “jock” charm that usually appears in teen rom-coms. Affleck, however, strikes a much more mature balance of stupidity and sensitivity as he battles the public backlash of being Nick Dunne. He emits enough insecurity to keep you just on his side throughout, and god-forbid, becomes almost sympathetic.

Pike, on the other hand, is in a league of her own. She is utterly magnetic as the enigmatic Amy. As an intoxicating blend of beauty and brutality, she owns all the screen time she gets. Typically B-grade all-rounder Tyler Perry is a revelation in his role as a welcomed comic-relief Tanner Bolt (Nick’s charismatic lawyer), and How I Met Your Mother’s Barney i.e Neil Patrick Harris, is both sweet and creepy as Amy’s mysterious ex-lover Desi Collings.

The gradual reveal of Amy’s fate, which occurs smack-bang in the middle of the saga, is unraveled with sleek precision. As a spectator of this epic drama you are gripped, utterly and wholeheartedly, from its gruesome start to its finish. Sure, Fincher has created a film in his own Girl with the Dragon Tattoo image, but Gone Girl excels in its ability to shock, provoke, disgust and ultimately, deceive. Scene after scene is a water cooler moment and makes this film a must-see for all moviegoers!

9/10