Tag Archives: zodiac

Gone Girl (2014)

“You two are the most f****d up people I’ve ever met, and I deal with f****d up people for a living.”

David Fincher has added one of the darkest strings to his bow with his newest film Gone Girl.  A delightfully decadent and addictive blend of mystery thriller and dark comedy, the film oozes Fincher’s style in a way not seen since Zodiac and Seven. Fans of his earlier work will be pleased with Gone Girl’s gripping story and the almost endless and ultimately  unnerving character depth.

Beginning with the disappearance of beautiful young woman Amy Dunn, the film moves between the present interrogation of Affleck and his suspicious indifference, and the past, which is drawn from accounts from Amy’s diary and personal narrative. The viewer is drawn cleverly into a subjective account of events, never really sure what, if anything, Affleck is hiding. As the media creates its own conclusions about the disappearance of “Amazing” Amy, the viewer is torn between the truth, and the media’s agenda.

As with all great films, Gone Girl focusses on its characters, as Fincher manipulates our assumptions and fears to ensure the story twists and hides at just the right time. There is always a hidden threat lying beneath the skin of both main characters, as we realise that like everyone else, their identity is formed as much through their own personality, as by everyone’s elses perceptions.

Fincher creates such an infectious sense of realism that permeates all the characters, including a eerily quiet Neil Patrick Harris as the ex-boyfriend. Although Affleck nails the necessary balance between victim and suspect, it is Rosamund Pike, especially in the latter parts of the film whom steals the show. It just wouldn’t be the same without her, and her performance will likely have you feeling several emotions at the same time when the credits roll. What those emotions are will be in the hands of the viewer, as Fincher’s manipulation of us is quite inescapable as the mystery unravels.

Shapstik Verdict: Mysterious, funny and chilling, Gone Girl is easily one of the best films of the year. Not since Zodiac has Fincher delivered such a dark film, and not since Seven has one felt quite so interrogative of the human condition. Strangely addictive whilst sometimes uncomfortable to hear and see, Fincher delivers an astute lesson in character depth and one that I cannot recommend enough. 9/10


Prisoners (2013)

“They only cried when I left them.”

From Canadian director Denis Villeneuve, Prisoners takes a trip down a dark and disturbing rabbit hole, weaving around the lives of several people involved in the abduction of two young girls. Hugh Jackman is intense as one of the distressed fathers, whom works both with and against the law in an attempt to find his daughter. But it is Jake Gyllenhaal who makes the biggest screen impact, combining his experience in Zodiac with one his most understated but professional performances as Detective Loki, a delightfully ambiguous character attempting to unravel the mystery at hand.

The director’s leaden and layered style is evident straight from the start, with clever dark and patient shots that hold onto the emotion written on the faces of all involved. Although the story itself lacks any real surprise, the myriad of character emotions, from Bello’s regression to Jackman’s frustration and cruelty, creates drama and leaves the viewer fully engrossed and slightly on edge. The cinematography also combines with Guzikowski’s writing to make a film that is artfully textured, but also intensely exciting. Although there is a sense of unfulfilled promise in its restraint, the dialogue flows and mixes with the rain-drenched setting evenly, so as not to leave the viewer squirming uncomfortably in their seat.

As an undoubtedly sinister and arty film, there are several clever metaphors and religious suggestions to have the critics crooning, but it does feel a shame that the gas isn’t stepped on sooner to catapult the film forward into an intense thriller. Despite this though, with such blurred lines between the characters and their motives, the real thrill is seeing the great actors performing. Especially Gyllenhaal’s eye-twitching and Paul Dano’s Eli-like turn as imprisoned suspect Alex Jones.

With an ominous and haunting soundtrack that sounds like a cross between Atticus Ross and John Carpenter to accompany the film, Prisoners is a classy yet honest movie that delivers a solid if somewhat predictable plot, coated with exceptional performances and some delicious cinematography that will linger behind the eye for some time.

Shapstik Verdict:  Prisoners exudes such an overtly artistic style, that its patience and long running time arguably oversteps the mark to the point of slightly silencing a potential thriller, which broods underneath the surface like those imprisoned souls that suffer in the film. But the plot’s twists and turns expertly intertwine with the emotion of the characters to punch a hole through the screen and reach out to the viewer, delivering a truly dark and layered drama that is not easy to forget.  8/10