Amanda Seyfried is a stereotyped actress. She has a reputation for playing the sweet fiancée or more of the girl-next-door than she does that of an action star – and she does well in those roles. The pretty blue-eyed blonde doesn’t seem to have the right stature it takes to make a good kick-butt kind of star as this role would requite but to her credit, she pulls it off.
No one is taking her seriously… they didn’t then and they aren’t now. Not the police or her younger sister. But Jill Clayton (Seyfried) is not going to be known as that “crazy Clayton girl.” She knows what happened to her and she is not going to stop until she can prove it. Following the death of her parents within six months of each other, Jill was devastated and after that she was kidnapped out of her own home. Miraculously, she is the one victim of the serial killer to escape and best him. Her reports to the police eventually go unsolved when a search team cannot find the pit that she said she was held in and she shows no sign of abuse. Following that, she is put into a mental institution before her sister Molly (Emily Wickersham) secures her release, and later moves in with her, unable to pay the rent as a college student. Jill isn’t willing to give up so easily. Every chance she gets she goes out to the forest park where she was held, ruling out locations and trying to find where she was held. Then it happens all over again… only this time, Molly disappears.
Frantic, Jill searches their home and again goes to see the detective who was once in charge of her case. Powers (Daniel Sunjata) listens again to Jill’s stories but he and the ranking detective who worked her case figure her claims are just that: Everything she says has to be just in her head...right? Everyone assumes Molly has just run off with a friend or her boyfriend (Sebastian Stan) except for the new-guy-on-the-case, Detective Hood (Wes Bentley). He wants to help Jill but she is too suspicious of everyone to extend much trust: Is his offer genuine or does he have an ulterior motive?
One of the movies that was not screened for critics (they say that is always a “bad” indicator), I can see why this didn’t turn out to be a success but Gone is surprisingly good in its delivery and the acting isn’t half bad. Its big-name cast gives the movie recognition and the plot isn’t as pathetic as most potential viewers may think. All of the actors give decent performances, including those whose part may be credited in the opening but is actually very minor while Seyfried delivers an authentic performance; she has a fragility that may seem weak in the role but is actually advantageous to the character. She is a broken woman having gone through a low time when her mental stability may not have been the best. She survived and escaped a twisted kidnapper and still she is living her life – no matter how paranoid she may be. Likewise, Emily Wickersham gives a believable performance. Ironically both girls have troubled pasts – Jill with her mental instability and Molly as a former drinker which makes everyone doubt the legitimacy of these allegations all the more.
The script isn’t fabulous – in fact, nearly five minutes pass before a word is uttered (more about this later) but the suspense isn’t terrible. I was on the edge of my seat a time or two and the overall ambience of mystery was fabulously plotted. Just insignificant things like everyone distrusting Jill or guys walking the darkened streets with hoodies on all lend credence to the real fear that has led to Jill’s paranoia. In part what I did like about the story was that the audience never questions the validity of Jill’s story – we “know” it to be true. It is one of the reasons the film works so well. Because Jill isn’t a government agent or spy (like so many in this genre are), the movie really works hard to not be “exciting.” There aren’t scenes that give way to chase or a shoot-out but there is a car chase and Jill must escape on foot a time or two. After all… there does have to be some excitement – right?
As I said earlier in the review, Gone definitely tends more on the slow side. There are a lot of moments in which Jill is simply doing Internet searches or knocking on doors but I think to work, this movie needed that. As a character, Jill was driven to do whatever it took to see her sister’s safe return and it was a realistic expectation not to make this into a female version of Taken. One thing I will say; the ending is quite unsatisfying in that it is not one made of sunshine and rainbows, instead it just… ends. It isn’t necessarily a bad ending either because there wouldn’t have been anything else to tell but it felt… incomplete somehow. The fact that we don’t doubt Jill’s ordeal does make the final scene seem sweet with payback – a bit of revenge for Jill and I do love that last line she gives the detectives. Certainly not the best movie of the year, this is far from the worst. It provides anyone who likes a mystery with some edge-of-your-seat thrills and chills and allows the heroine to have the last word while still somehow making us root for her. It is one that gives us something to ponder – if nothing else, it makes us realize that we do have to be on defense in a world filled with scary people.
(Content concerns: Rated PG13, the movie shows a shot of a woman showering with a full side view [she is shadowed by the curtain]. There might be a sexual innuendo [a one-sided conversation implies a guy wants to spend the night with his girlfriend]; a woman takes pills for a condition, and there is reference to drugs and alcoholism. Guns are fired and one man is shot three times then lit on fire [we hear his screams]. There are some tense moments. There is profanity including one use of the f-word, sh*t and others.)