Today: July 10, 2024

Gone

Jill (Amanda Seyfried) is a woman on a mission. From the opening shots of Gone, where we see her marching stony-faced through a forest before grimly marking off a section on a large map, she is every bit the troubled protagonist all good film-noirs needs.

Jill (Amanda
Seyfried) is a woman on a mission. From the opening shots of Gone, where we see her marching
stony-faced through a forest before grimly marking off a section on a large
map, she is every bit the troubled protagonist all good film-noirs needs.
Although describing Gone as film-noir might seem a
bit of a stretch – it’s frequently silly and occasionally borders on
self-parody – the film certainly borrows elements from the genre, combining the
vigilante-style character of Jill with a dark, central mystery and forming a
kind of neo-noir which is reminiscent of films like Brick. Gone seems to
delight in this genre, bringing in all the usual elements – a shadowy killer,
an interfering police force and plenty of red herrings – and mostly using them
to good effect… right up until the ending, that is.

The plot
revolves around the midnight disappearance of Jill’s sister Molly (Emily
Wickersham
), who Jill believes has been taken by the same mysterious figure
who kidnapped her two years ago. Her situation is made worse by the unhelpful
police force, who not only don’t believe her and don’t want to help her, but
who also want to bring her in for questioning (after discovering she’s been
threatening strangers with a gun).

Some of the
characters are a bit larger than life and the film does border on the
ridiculous at times, but for the first couple of acts it’s a still a lot of
fun. Director Heitor Dahlia does a fantastic job of building tension in
the opening few scenes, cutting between an anxious Jill working the late shift
at a cafe and Molly, getting ready for bed in the ominously empty house she
shares with her sister. There is an overpowering sense that something bad is about
to happen, but we’re unsure at first whether it will be Jill or her sister it
happens to. This tension carries on through the majority of the film, which
jumps between mystery-thriller and detective-story as Jill narrowly avoids the
police and desperately searches for clues as to her sister’s whereabouts. Some
of the red herrings are so obvious they’re almost laughable – Peter Hood (Wes
Bentley
), the overly mysterious new police officer who offers Jill his
help, practically screams “bad guy”, for instance – but even these plot
elements have a certain self-awareness to them. When Hood disappears later in
the film and the explanation is, “he said his mother’s sick and he’s bringing
her soup”, we get the refreshing sense that the screen writers weren’t taking
themselves too seriously.

For all the
entertainment and fun of the first two Acts, though, Gone eventually becomes
the victim of its own genre. The ending, which the film builds towards with a
rising sense of suspense, is ultimately a tad disappointing. It feels as though
the twisting plot has been setting itself up for a big finale, but instead the
film gradually fizzles out in the final twenty minutes, and we are left with
the feeling that the writers weren’t really sure how to tie everything together.

Despite this
slight feeling of anticlimax, though, Gone is still a pleasant surprise on the
whole. It manages to celebrate the film-noir genre while still using its tropes
to good effect – a balancing act that is no easy feat.

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