This new film by David Fincher (also famous for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and The Social Network), based on the novel of the same name by Gillian Flynn, is deservedly receiving many positive reviews from other critics. The film begins with what seems to be a familiar-sounding story arc: a husband (Ben Affleck), after having marital problems with his wife (Rosamund Pike), claims to the police that she disappeared and must have been kidnapped by home invaders. There are signs of a struggle in his home but, on further examination, they turn out to be clearly staged. Affleck's character has maxed out some credit cards and just took out an insurance policy on his recently and mysteriously disappeared spouse. All signs, obviously, pointing the police (and everyone else) to the natural deduction that he murdered his own wife.
However, the story does not end there. Filled with twists and turns, the film takes us down an even darker road into what can only be described as the realm of grandiose narcissism and mental sickness. But, surprisingly, the film's message is that all of society is sick with this illness - not only the husband or the wife. The town (and wider public influenced by the media) suspects the husband, but is equally quick to be manipulated and turned by anyone with enough know-how and sophist slight-of-hand. The consumerist and sensationalist mentality that holds everyone captive cannot be shaken. No love really exists between anyone, no real trust or familiarity, and certainly nothing resembling true intimacy. The wife has been manipulated since a child into thinking of herself as "Amazing Amy," the subject and heroine of her parent's children's novels; she always has to live up to that image and push herself into the center of attention. Her husband cannot live in the constructed world of his wife's imagination and makes up his own alternative. His and her parents unite in mutual self-deception or live in their own worlds, as does almost everyone around them. All that keeps anyone together is threats, deception, or mutual benefit.
The philosopher Thomas Hobbes could not have expressed his thoughts on human natural existence more emphatically. Whereas for Hobbes, political community and social contract can remedy the natural situation of man, Gone Girl is emphatic that the natural condition cannot be suppressed or suspended. Instead, the natural condition - characterized by "continual fear, and danger of violent death" - leads in all cases to an image that the "life of man [is] solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short" (Leviathan, XIII). This is the world we live in. To think of some other sets of motivations or the possibility of real intimacy, for example, is nothing but foolishness.
While that gives a rather dark tint to the film, Gone Girl is entertaining, if nothing else, in a very cleverly told story that keeps one guessing and in suspense for its full duration, even until the last minute. Its conclusion too remains ambiguous. I'd certainly recommend it also for those with no theological or philosophical pretensions, as the plot is a fantastic example of storytelling. But for those who find themselves on the more theological side, I would wager that, despite such a dark message, the person not so convicted of the horrifying natural state of man can at least see in this a critique of a world lived apart from grace. Without some external intervention from outside the system, the closed entropic system of negative human relations and meaninglessness will just continue to deteriorate into hapless chaos ad infinitum. But, for the Christian, true hope is grounded on something outside the system. In fact, it most clearly demonstrates the futility of trying to find happiness, meaning, or even anything truly human in love and intimacy apart from the light of God's grace.
My Rating: 8.5 out of 10