There is nothing better than watching a bunch of narcissistic sociopaths play mind games with each other for two and a half hours.  No sarcasm.  That is exactly what Gone Girl promised and exactly what it delivered.

Nick is a self-important yet charming ex-New Yorker living in Missouri with his brilliant wife, Amy.  Amy disappears, which is where the fun really begins.  A suspicious crime scene has everyone pointing fingers at Nick, who is certainly not doing himself any favors with his evasiveness and apparent lack of empathy.  As the plot thickens, the dark nature of their marriage is revealed through a series of Amy’s journal entries.  Nick is not a good guy, but could he have killed his wife?

I read the book in one sitting.  The dark ambience, with its twisted characters and subtle cleverness, drew me in.  The whole thing feels like a distorted nightmare, and it left me with a slimy feeling in my gut.  I went into the movie hoping to get the same vibes;  I wasn’t disappointed.

What the movie does best is create an atmosphere that’s almost obnoxiously stylish.  It’s sick and dark and disturbing at points, but inexplicably captivating.  Nothing about the story is quite right, and the mood perfectly captures that.  Even though I knew what was going to happen, I got caught up in the tension and escalating suspense.

Gone Girl is, at its core, a psychological study of marriage and sociopathy, so the acting had to be near flawless for the movie to work.  Ben Affleck plays Nick with ease and care.  But the real star is Rosamund Pike (Jack Reacher, Wrath of the Titans).  She plays Amy with the finesse and subtlety her character required.  She perfectly captures the complexity of Amy: her brilliance and wit, her unattainable aura, her warped sense of justice, and that indefinable something that draws people in.  The best parts of the movie arrived when she was involved prominently.

Here’s the thing about the main characters: you won’t like them.  Nick is a self-centered egomaniac who can be incredibly dense, and Amy is complicated beyond belief.  Neither of them is supposed to be likeable, but what they lack in positive traits, they make up for in originality and depth.  I can’t say they are relatable, but they are definitely fascinating in a horrifying way.  Like a car crash, I couldn’t stop watching.

Neil Patrick Harris (How I Met Your Mother) randomly ended up in this movie.  He plays Desi Collings, the obsessed, stalkerish ex-boyfriend.  It’s weird seeing him in a serious role.  Not to say he did a terrible job, but it just felt, well, odd.  He’s better suited as a ridiculous, larger-than-life character.

The movie is long, two hours and 25 minutes, but it doesn’t drag.  It needs all that time to really flesh out the characters and build  suspense.  The movie focuses a lot on Amy, and we really get an in-depth look at the complex workings of her mind through her journal entries.  Unfortunately, Nick’s character isn’t as fully realized.  In the book, we come to understand his strange reactions through his narration, but in the movie, a lot of his actions feel random.

Gone Girl has all the hallmarks of an entertaining film: murder, suspense, romance (however demented it may be), and plot twists galore.  With effortless style and relentless suspense, Gone Girl manages to disgust and delight in all the right ways.

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