Nicholas Goodchild

Historic and Pared Down


28 April 2012 by Nicholas in Films

Gone, starring Amanda Seyfried, is a thriller about a girl who has previously been kidnapped by a serial killer (only to escape) whose sister goes missing one night. The film focuses around her attempts to locate her sister the following day as she works under the assumption that the serial killer who previously took her has now kidnapped her sister.

Discussing Gone without revealing parts of the plot is incredibly difficult, made harder still by the lack of ambiguity in much of the film. I am unsure if the film was always intended to be one note and quite so linear, or if it has become so because of poor direction and a feverish application of scissors in the editing suite.

The film shows the protagonist’s point of view almost exclusively and every other character is show in terms of interacting with her or reacting to her. As such, and because of the linearity of the film, there is never any real suggestion that she may be wrong in her assumption as to what has happened to her sister. When other characters voice their doubts the tone of the film is to make them appear to be time wasters rather than having grounded or rational doubts. This is a shame, because it robs the film of texture and also makes the tension disappear. Thrillers work best when the hero could be wrong and also when they are at risk. The decision to make the protagonist infallible in her beliefs cuts a lot of the tension.

On the subject of infallibility, every single character that the protagonist asks about her sister has information that is both useful and turns out to be correct. It’s like a poorly constructed point and click adventure that requires no thought and no analysis of potential bias: go to point A, talk to character B, head to location C and talk to character D . . .

The twist, such as there is, doesn’t work because the character has been shown as correct all this time. If there had been doubt cast on her beliefs and certainty in any meaningful way throughout the film, or even if the tone had been different, it could have worked better. The red herring character is no better, acting irrationally and lit to make him look sinister, but so obvious he can immediately be discounted: his entire character exists to throw suspicion on him and his every scene is an attempt to misdirect. The real villain is  underdeveloped and not particularly interesting, much like the rest of the film. It’s a shame, because Seyfried is eminently watchable and a capable actress. But the film is anaemic and has nothing to say and trouble saying even that.