By Jeff Labrecque
Updated October 03, 2014 at 08:00 PM EDT
Credit: Merrick Morton
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“Marriage is hard work,” says Amy Dunne in Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl.

The longer one has been married, the greater one understands the meaning behind the phrase “honeymoon period.” In David Fincher’s adaptation of Flynn’s bestseller, the magical romance between Nick (Ben Affleck) and Amy Dunne (Rosamund Pike) has hit the wall five years in. They fall in love in New York City, but when they both lose their magazine jobs and his mother falls ill in Missouri, they move to his hometown and quickly drift apart. How far apart? Nick may have murdered her.

When Amy goes missing on the day of the fifth anniversary, Nick is the primary suspect. The local cops can’t believe all the evidence against him, and any sympathy he initially gets from the news media vanishes once some of his secrets come to light.

Flynn, who also wrote the screenplay, worked hard to translate the he-said/she-said storytelling, and Fincher wrings the most out of the film’s twists and turns—even though millions of readers already know when to expect them. “I can’t guarantee that the film’s ending will work for everyone (it was always my one nit to pick with Flynn’s novel),” writes EW‘s Chris Nashawaty. “But I will say this: Anyone who loved Gone Girl the book will walk out of Gone Girl the movie with a sick grin on their face.”

Read more from EW’s review, as well as a roundup of other notable critics, below.

Chris Nashawaty (Entertainment Weekly) ▲

“There were reasons to be wary, of course. Was Ben Affleck too smug—and let’s face it, too on-the-nose—to play the callow Nick Dunne? Was Rosamund Pike too icily ethereal and untested to play his missing wife, Amy? And how would the film handle the novel’s just-short-of-preposterous Big Reveal? Well, the answers are no, no, and… masterfully. Fincher and Flynn’s film gets just about everything right.”

Ann Hornaday (Washington Post)

Gone Girl is a “yes, but” movie: Yes, it’s well-made, but it stays maddeningly on its own polished surfaces. It’s smart, but not clever or probing or risky enough to be truly brilliant. It’s absorbing, but not terribly deep, memorable or, finally, all that much fun to watch.”

Manohla Dargis (New York Times)

“At its strongest, Gone Girl plays like a queasily, at times gleefully, funny horror movie about a modern marriage … Yet, as sometimes happens in Mr. Fincher’s work, dread descends like winter shadows, darkening the movie’s tone and visuals until it’s snuffed out all the light, air and nuance.”

Liam Lacey (Toronto Globe and Mail) ▲

“Affleck’s handsome mug and shifty, uneasy manner have never been better suited to a role. … The pretty English actress Pike, whose range has extended from the decorative (Barney’s Version) to slyly amusing (An Education), is a revelation (though the details can’t be revealed here) as a character of near-mythic self-absorption.”

Justin Chang (Variety) ▲

“Pike is the sort of elegantly composed blonde beauty with whom Hitchcock would have had a field day, and some may well quibble that the actress’s cool British hauteur doesn’t fully capture Amy’s America’s-sweetheart side. Yet … she also possesses the sort of ferocious charisma that magnetizes the screen…”

David Edelstein (New York)

“I never thought I’d write these words, but [Affleck] carries the movie. He’s terrific. Fincher exploits—and helps him ­transcend—his most common failing, a certain handsome-lug lack of commitment. … Affleck’s Nick doesn’t mourn convincingly or look remotely ­honest—even when he tells the truth.”

Richard Roeper (Chicago Sun-Times)

“This story cannot be taken too seriously. It’s filled with bad people who sometimes pull off brilliant stunts—and then follow a stunt with an act of blatant stupidity. But it’s a thing of beauty watching them manipulate, stumble, recover, stumble again, and then… more madness.”

Mick LaSalle (San Francisco Chronicle)

“If only the dip in quality came in the middle, or even at the beginning, we might still be able to class Gone Girl as among the year’s best. But when a movie, in its final minutes, forsakes its own logic and embraces false cleverness, that can’t be ignored.”

“The true creepiness of Gone Girl is in its portrait of a marriage gone sour, curdled from its emotional and erotic liberation of courtship into a life sentence together, till death do they part. In Gone Girl, marriage is a prison, and each spouse is both jailer and inmate— perhaps even executioner, too.”

Kenneth Turan (Los Angeles Times) ▲

“Fincher, whose work can be gratuitously disturbing (Seven) as well as formally impressive (The Social Network), is by nature a chilly director, a temperament that meshes well with the unsettlingly bleak view of human nature that Gone Girl is all about.”

Todd McCarthy (Hollywood Reporter)

“[Gone Girl] is a sharply made, perfectly cast and unfailingly absorbing melodrama. But, like the director’s adaptation of another publishing phenomenon, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, three years ago, it leaves you with a quietly lingering feeling of: ‘Is that all there is?'”

Gone Girl

Overall Metacritic rating (1-100): 79

Rotten Tomatoes: 86 percent

Rated: R

Length: 145 minutes

Starring Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike, Neil Patrick Harris, Tyler Perry

Directed by David Fincher

Distributor: Fox

Gone Girl

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