You would be forgiven for wondering why you haven't heard of Gone before - it's one of those movies that wouldn't have lasted long in theatres, but don’t let this fool you into thinking that there's nothing more to it than another cheap slice of forgettable Hollywood schlock, for to do so, you would be slightly mistaken. Ok, it is pretty forgettable. In fact, in the time it took me to make a cup of tea after watching the movie I had forgotten the main character's name completely, but lets just put that down to me having seen a few too many summers for my memory to be completely reliable. The fact is that I genuinely didn't hate it as much as I worried I might. After watching the trailer before receiving the review disc, I had a feeling I was going to loathe it, but I was wrong. I found it perfectly acceptable, and even a little enjoyable at times. This, made easier by a quite stunning Blu-ray image on show, was somewhat a surprise to me.
So let's take a look.
Amanda Seyfried stars in a surprisingly watchable affair that follows the unfortunate events around kidnap victim Jill Parrish (Seyfried) - though one of the central plot devices is the fact that it was never proven that she was ever kidnapped. Her story goes that she was taken from her bed one night and brought, bound and unconscious, out into the wilderness. Dropped into a deep hole or pit in the middle of Portland, Oregon's Forest National Park, she discovers that her assailant has the propensity to kill, as she finds human remains – presumably that of the killer's previous victims - buried in the floor of the pit. After some time, the kidnapper descends into the pit to kill her. Scrabbling around in a screechy panic, Jill finds a fore arm bone of one of the killers previous victims, which she plunges into the killers shoulder, affording her time enough to escape. When picked up by the police, she is unharmed, and no evidence of her abduction can be found. The location of the pit is lost, and as time goes by, her sanity comes into question and she is involuntarily admitted to a psychiatric unit, where she is prescribed medication to deal with her anxiety and raging outbursts.
We see none of this in the movie bar the occasional flashback – this is her backstory, and it's fed to us in bento-box size portions amidst the plethora of woefully unnecessary lies that Jill spins throughout the course of the movie - but more on this later.
Now, working as a waitress in an all night diner, Jill is struggling to rebuild her life. She is still on medication and remains hugely apprehensive about men, but lives with her sister now. The story really begins when Jill's sister, Molly (Emily Wickersham) is home alone on the night before her final exams whilst Jill is working the night shift. Upon returning home the next morning, Jill finds that Molly is missing. No signs of forced entry, no signs of a struggle, but Jill's sixth sense and paranoia, tells her something is not right. She immediately involves the police, who appear to be quite accustomed to visits from Jill, and don't seem overly interested in her claims that her sister has been abducted. Frustrated, but convinced that her kidnapper had returned to finish what he failed to do last time, but mistakenly took her sister instead of her, she sets about finding the truth, and her missing sister. Before long, her pursuit is further complicated by the fact that the police are now pursuing her on suspicion of possessing a firearm, something that is forbidden as part of her hospital discharge conditions.
And so begins a race within a chase scenario; where Jill races against time to find her missing sister, the police race against Jill to arrest her, and we the audience slalom sluggishly between the plethora of red herrings offered up to stall us at every turn.
The pace of the movie is its most successful element. Measured and balanced, it doesn't pretend to be something it's not. There's no heavy handed attempts to play it as a psychological drama, preferring to stick to its guns as a fast paced action thriller. Its only real failing lies in the fact that it throws such an innumerable amount of red herrings at us in an attempt to throw us off the scent of the narrative - suggesting one minute that her sister is in mortal danger, the next that it's the cop who's orchestrated the entire thing, quickly followed by the suggestion that it's all in her head. The truth is that before long, I didn't really care to try keeping up with it moment to moment, I knew it would spell things out for me in the end, and I was surprisingly OK with this. It's that kind of telegraphed movie in which I found I was somehow invested in the main characters, but not so much in the “whodunnit”, Cluedo style plot.
Amanda Seyfried, most recently seen donning her red cloak in the absolutely dreadful Red Riding Hood along side a misplaced Gary Oldman (what on earth were you thinking, Gary?), does a pretty good job of it as Jill. She appears nervous and uptight, but strong and resilient at the same time. I found it confusing as to why her character felt the need to constantly think up new lies every time she met someone new that she needed information from – it just seemed weird and massively unnecessary – if they're all different people, and none of them know each other, stick with one story? A minor point, really, but it was slightly irritating trying to keep up with her tales.
The real show-stopper for me was the police. I've literally never seen a less convincing police unit in any movie. I found -cop in charge- Detective Powers, played by golden boy Daniel Sunjata (The Dark Knight Rises) to be, well, to put it bluntly- a buffoon. If he's not clumsily barking accusations at Jill about how she's basically mental and it's all in her head, he's displaying an implausible lack of police intuition, telegraphing information he has about Jill, who is now a suspected armed and dangerous fugitive, by letting her know that they know she has a gun, so she should turn herself in. Now, I'm not police or anything, but seriously, up until the point at which he mentions the gun, she probably would have been easy to bring in. I found this lack of common sense, nay, stupidity very off putting. So incomprehensible is their apparent idiocy that it really did distract me from the narrative at times. I was also a little distracted by Officer Ash's hair which seemed equally unrealistic as far as styles go. Yeah I know, weird thing to put in a review, but it stands to reason in supporting my claim that everything about this police unit is odd; almost as though the writer had never heard of the police before.
I'll move on.
Ok, so I'm being negative about it when, like I said at the top of this review, I actually found Gone surprisingly watchable. The plot is simple and straight forward enough. Doesn’t break any boundaries or offer anything in the way of originality, but what it does do is keep you interested enough to want to know what happens next, which is in part down to the main character, Jill, and the fact that Amanda Seyfried does a bang up job of convincing us as the neurotic female sleuth. Constantly reeling off lies does raise big questions for the audience that certainly play a part in keeping us interested, as we wonder whether or not she really is imagining it all. This, for me, was the only question I really wanted an answer to, as I was curious as to which way it would go, and how Brazilian director Heitor Dhalia would handle it - it's the main element that generated genuine intrigue for me. Does the girl have some mental or cognitive instabilities, or is someone genuinely trying to kill her and her sister? We're not spoon-fed any answers to this, rather, we find ourselves ducking and dodging the constant barrage of red herrings thrown at us, including the obvious cliché of distraction – Could it be the boyfriend? Or perhaps the cop, played by American Beauty star Wes Bentley, who's new to the police unit and has shown a suspicious interest in Jill's case – also he does have kind of creepy eyes.
Jill legitimately believes that her sister has been abducted, and Seyfried's performance on the whole is good. That, coupled with the prospect of finding out whether or not this was going to turn out to be a genuine tale of Kidnap survivor versus The World or The World versus Crazy lady who thought she'd been kidnapped, was enough to keep me invested. It's telegraphed and done to death, but it works in this instance. Coupled with a decent enough cast, which includes a bit part from Dexter's Jennifer Carpenter and the paper bag boy with the creepy eyes from American Beauty, Gone isn't nearly as bad as its trailer suggested.
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