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April 22, 2012

Gone (2012)
Director: Heitor Dhalia
Actors: Amanda Seyfried, Daniel Sunjata, Wes Bentley

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Synopsis: Jill Parrish (Amanda Seyfried) sets out to uncover the whereabouts of her missing sister, fearing she may have been abducted by the same man who took her the previous year.

Review: This Hollywood debut from Brazilian filmmaker, Heitor Dhalia, is the cinematic equivalent of a great page-turner. It’s one of the most purely thrilling American films I’ve seen in recent times, although in some respects its end effect is greater than the sum of its parts – it certainly won’t be a film that lingers on your conscious for hours and days after the viewing. That said, Dhalia does good things with his Portland location, saturating his melancholic story in the rainy bluey-grey palette familiar from other recent works set in the Pacific Northwest (Gus Van Sant’s Paranoid Park and William Friedkin’s The Hunted immediately spring to mind). I also like the fact we’re thrown straight into the mystery of the piece with the opening coda of Amanda Seyfried’s Jill Parrish hiking through the ominous-looking park just outside downtown Portland. And from thereon, the film is one long adrenaline joyride as Parrish sets out to uncover where – and indeed, if – her sister was abducted.

My main problem with the film is that if you scratch beneath its veneer, you expose a whole host of basic, headscratching flaws. To list them all would be too exhaustive and in a sense counterintuitive to a film whose main remit is to entertain, but there’s definitely a conflict in the screenplay between its base thrill/horror aspirations and a pretension to something more psychodramatic – it looks like Parrish is being set up as the classic unreliable narrator à la The Machinist or Fight Club, but this thread is fudged quite badly by the end. Also the central killer identity has no basic ‘whodunnit’ logic. I must confess (massive spoiler alert), that when I saw the relatively big name of Wes Bentley in an ambiguous supporting role as the seemingly friendly cop, and when he conveniently disappears at the film’s climax just as the killer is about to be unmasked, I was putting two and two together….Until the killer is revealed as a hitherto unintroduced character and Bentley bizarrely isn’t mentioned again in the film at all. A clear case of shoddy script development or editing, but overall it doesn’t detract too much from the easy watchability of Gone(April 2012)

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