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'Gone Girl' Rewrites the Book

Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike vie to out-dysfunction each other in the film version of the novel

Rating: R

Running Time: 2 hours, 29 minutes

Stars: Ben Affleck, Neil Patrick Harris, Tyler Perry, Rosamund Pike

Director: David Fincher

More than any other page-to-screen movie in recent memory, Gone Girl has been the source of intense trepidation: Even the novel's most ardent fans hated the ending, so author Gillian Flynn — who also wrote the screenplay — promised to conclude the film in a way that viewers would like a whole lot more.

Ben Affleck, Gone Girl, movie review

Everett Collection

Is this the face of a killer? Ben Affleck stars in "Gone Girl."

I'm a watcher, not a reader, so I'm really not sure what those bookworms were on about. Taken purely as a movie, however, Gone Girl is a crackerjack mystery that successively keeps the viewer wondering who's been killed, who's the killer, who's next, and oh yeah, has anyone been killed at all?

Ben Affleck plays Nick Dunne, who comes home one morning to find signs of a struggle and his wife, Amy, is missing. He calls the cops, who unceremoniously place Nick atop their "Persons of Interest" list. "Preposterous!" we (are led to) think. But then layers of the secret life that Nick has apparently been leading start to get peeled away — partly through his own actions, but mostly through passages from a diary written by Amy. She is played (primarily in flashbacks, in the early going) by Rosamund Pike, who also arrives on screens this week in Hector and the Search for Happiness.

Pretty soon we and the world at large are convinced that Nick fatally knocked his wife on the noggin, but Affleck — he of the crooked smile and puppy-dog eyes — keeps cozying up to us as if to say, "Look at this face! Is this the face of a killer?"

Think too far ahead of Gone Girl's narrative and you risk anticipating some of the movie's best plot twists. Better, therefore, to hand the wheel entirely to director David Fincher, who also drove The Social Network and Fight Club to box-office success. Fincher invites plenty of fun incidental characters along for this ride, among them Nick's ever-supportive twin sister (Carrie Coon), Amy's obsessive ex-boyfriend (Neil Patrick Harris), a hotshot defense lawyer (Tyler Perry) and a persistent police detective (Kim Dickens).

I'll leave it to fans of Gone Girl the novel to determine if Gone Girl the movie ends in newly satisfying fashion. The question may be moot, though; after two hours of head-spinning misdirection, you'll have grown accustomed to asking yourself, "What could possibly happen next?" Gone Girl ingeniously ties up its loose ends, but keeps us asking that very same question as we shakily exit the theater.

Bill Newcott is a writer, editor and movie critic for AARP Media.

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