The centerpiece is “Amazing” Amy (Rosamund Pike), so named because she is the inspiration for her snooty parents’ wildly successful set of children’s books. Amy is swept off of her feet by charming, laid-back everyman, Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck). They are head over heels in love and get happily married. Years later, on their fifth anniversary of marriage, Nick goes home to find that his wife has disappeared.
As mentioned, the first half of the film is a compelling murder mystery where we are mainly spent wondering how, why, and most importantly, if Nick killed his wife. The tone is dreary and the soundtrack is perfect, but what truly sets this film apart is it’s narrative. There have been non-linear murder mystery’s before, but few manage to toy with the audience like Fincher (Panic Room, Benjamin Button, The Social Network) does with this film. We mainly follow Nick, who seems as genuinely confused by the events as everyone else, but because he doesn’t seem as saddened or concerned, the police detective charged with the case (Kim Dickens), the media, and we the audience, are left to draw conclusions based on three things: The evidence we are allowed to know, Nick’s numerous character flaws, and Amy’s own narrative via her diary. But like any murder mystery, it is never as simple as it seems.
Untrustworthy narratives, coupled with numerous twists and turns, make the second half of the film an absolute thriller. Once we know what really happened, it then becomes a cat and mouse game to discover who can better prove their innocence. Some twists you may see coming, but whether you can foresee it or not won’t take away from how eerie the whole situation is.
An absolutely stellar cast also manages to keep our interest in this nearly three hour film. Affleck is perfect as the everyman who just wants people to hear his side of the story before he is judged. Rosamund Pike plays her best role ever as the exceedingly cerebral Amy. Together, their characters are the epitome of every wife’s fear in a husband, and every husband’s fear in a wife. Surprisingly, Tyler Perry is also absolutely infectious in his role as Affleck’s Johnnie Cochrane-like lawyer.
The length of the film might get to you. We can’t all handle lengthy films, but the story and more importantly, the way it’s told should be enough to keep you interested. No movie I’ve ever seen does a better job at convincing an audience that there are always two sides to every story. And by the time the film comes to its unsettling end, I guarantee you’ll feel far more horrified than if you’d seen a film about a possessed doll.
FINAL GRADE: A-