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GONE GIRL: 4 ½ STARS. “will keep you guessing until the end.”

video-undefined-1D1ECB8A00000578-710_636x358“Gone Girl” is about many things. It’s about the perfect crime. It’s about the disintegration of a marriage. It’s about the mob mentality that shows like Nancy Grace creates when “innocent until proven guilty” becomes a meaningless catchphrase. Heck, it’s even about proving Tyler Perry actually can act but mostly its about keeping the audience perched on the edge of their collective seats.

When Amy (Rosamund Pike) and Nick (Ben Affleck) first meet both are writers living in New York City. It’s love at first sight. “We’re so cute I want to punch us in the face,” she says. but after a few years of marriage, a recession and a downsizing from Manhattan to Missouri, things go sour. On the morning of their seventh anniversary Amy disappears, leaving behind only an over turned coffee table and a smear of blood in the kitchen. In the coming days Nick’s life is turned upside down. “It’s like I’m on a Law and Order episode,” he says. His wife is gone, her over protective parents are on the scene and he is suspect number one.

Telling any more of the story would be akin to like giving you a puzzle, with all the pieces in place save for one corner. In other words, the more you know the less fun the movie will be. Director David Fincher has constructed an intricate, he-said-she-said thriller, based on a bestseller of the same name by Gillian Flynn, that relies on the element of surprise.

At the helm is Affleck. He’s terrific in what may be his most natural performance ever. He has the charm of a romantic lead but the soulless affect of a man lost at sea personally and professionally.

Affleck is a bright light but Pike burns a hole in the screen. The former Bond girl and “An Education” star has never been better. Cold and calculating, terrified and terrifying, she puts the femme in fatale. A star in the Brian DePalma mode, she’s capable of almost anything except being ignored. It’s a bravura performance and one that will garner attention come Oscar time.

Fincher has populated the film with strong supporting actors. The unconventional casting of Neil Patrick Harris, as an wealthy, controlling ex-boyfriend and Tyler Perry as a celebrity attorney both work well, but the stand-outs are in the female secondary cast.

As Nick’s twin sister Margo, Carrie Coon is spunky, funny—“Whoever took her is bound to bring her back,” she says of the sister-in-law she doesn’t like.—and finally desperate. Kim Dickens as the no nonsense Detective Rhonda Boney, the lead of the team investigating Amy’s disappearance, provides the procedural portion of the story.

“Gone Girl” is not great art, but it is an artfully made potboiler with memorable performances and slick direction that will keep you guessing until the end.

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