'Gone Girl' a chilly, precisely crafted thriller, reviews say

Early reviews say David Fincher's icy 'Gone Girl' adaptation mostly lives up to the hype

"Gone Girl" is one of the most anticipated movies of the fall, boasting a high-profile director in David Fincher, an A-list leading man in Ben Affleck, a rising star in Rosamund Pike and bestselling source material in Gillian Flynn's novel of the same name. The marital murder mystery doesn't hit theaters for another week, but reviews are already surfacing ahead of its bow at the New York Film Festival this evening.

The verdict? Nearly every critic so far agrees that "Gone Girl" is an intricately crafted work, a faithful adaptation and a well-acted thriller. But if it mostly lives up to the hype, it has also — like some other Fincher films — left a few reviewers a bit cold.

The Times' Kenneth Turan gives "Gone Girl" a rave review, calling it "deliciously twisted." He writes, "all the fuss is justified. Superbly cast from the two at the top to the smallest speaking parts, impeccably directed by Fincher and crafted by his regular team to within an inch of its life, 'Gone Girl' shows the remarkable things that can happen when filmmaker and material are this well matched."

Regarding the cast, Turan says Affleck "gets Nick's combination of arrogance and likability exactly right," Pike "is completely his equal in a performance that defies expectations at every turn," and the supporting cast fills out an "intricate mosaic." As for Fincher, his chilly temperament "meshes well with the unsettlingly bleak view of human nature that 'Gone Girl' is all about."

Entertainment Weekly's Chris Nashawaty agrees that "Fincher and Flynn's film gets just about everything right." Affleck delivers "what may be the most natural performance of his career. He's confident without being cocky, charming without being smarmy," and Pike "summons levels of depth and daring she's never been asked to grapple with before."

Fincher, meanwhile, conducts everything "like a true-crime Toscanini," Nashawaty says, and "anyone who loved 'Gone Girl' the book will walk out of 'Gone Girl' the movie with a sick grin on their face."

New York Magazine's David Edelstein calls "Gone Girl" an "elegantly wicked suburban noir," adding, "The movie is phenomenally gripping — although it does leave you queasy, uncertain what to take away on the subject of men, women, marriage, and the possibility of intimacy from the example of such prodigiously messed-up people."

Surprisingly — for Edelstein, at least — Affleck "carries the movie. He's terrific." As for Pike, "her acting is also a study in acting. In those few moments when the mask slips, she's tight, frightened, childishly vulnerable, desperately grasping for a sense of control that the universe has denied her. I loved looking at her. "

Other reviewers appreciate the film's craftsmanship but feel something's missing. For the Wall Street Journal's Joe Morgenstern, that something would seem to be enjoyment. He writes, "Fun seldom figures in this adaptation, which is overlong and mysteriously unaffecting." Even so, "Fincher's film has many fascinations. It's meticulously crafted, beautifully photographed (by Jeff Cronenweth), and — finally — an occasion for the marvelous Ms. Pike to take on a starring role. She's a star presence here from her very first scene."

The New York Times' Manohla Dargis says that "Fincher's compositions, camera work and cutting are, as always, superbly controlled." She adds, "At its strongest, 'Gone Girl' plays like a queasily, at times gleefully, funny horror movie about a modern marriage, one that has disintegrated partly because of spiraling downward mobility and lost privilege. Yet, as sometimes happens in Mr. Fincher's work, dread descends like winter shadows, darkening the movie's tone and visuals until it's snuffed out all the light, air and nuance."

The Village Voice's Stephanie Zacharek says that everything about the movie is "precise and thoughtful — it's as well planned as the perfect murder, with its share of vicious, shivery delights. But at the end of the perfect murder, all you're left with is a corpse, and that's about all 'Gone Girl' … leaves you with, too."

Still, Zacharek says, "'Gone Girl' is fun while it lasts. And if you go to the movies to admire performances and craftsmanship, there's plenty to go around."

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