Saturday, April 21, 2012

Review: GONE

Directed by Heitor Dhalia
Starring: Amanda Seyfried, Jennifer Carpenter, Wes Bentley, Daniel Sunjata
Grade: F

While some may be trembling violently at the prospect of girl-next-door Anne Hathaway donning a cat suit this summer, the choice of Hathaway as a feline villain will likely fail to eclipse the misjudged casting of Amanda Seyfried in “Gone.” Regardless of the absurdist, rollicking action in Jaume Collet-Serra’s “Unknown” its star Liam Neeson at least appears to be bordering on recognising the parodic nature of his career pattern. Seyfried, admittedly neither experienced enough to be able to approach self-reflexivity nor to recognise the hilarious flaws of this similarly deranged, icy thriller, treats the text as seriously as cancer and is duly punished.

Even with the thankless task of humanising a woman incapable of listening to any form of rationale, Seyfried expresses the tremulous urgency of her character’s tricky predicament with the mannered impulses of a recovering junkie, itchy for their methadone and unreasonably pushy in hastening its arrival. In reality – or the vague semblance of it existent in “Gone” – what Seyfried’s Jill really wants is answers: Who is the serial killer who tormented her over a year ago? Where is he now holding her sister captive? While “Untraceable” scribe Allison Burnett handily suggests Jill’s angst may be attributed to the trauma of her kidnapping and subsequent mental breakdown, she also asserts that cops merely sit around drinking coffee and chortling at the pained ramblings of hysterical teenage women, and are content to dismiss the girl’s theories about her sister’s disappearance as mere paranoia.

In spite of attempts to represent Jill as a potentially wronged heroine, as a viewer it’s extremely difficult to establish an allegiance to her, the easiest move being to side with the patronising naysayers observing Seyfried’s vigilante-destined-to-be-cat-lady histrionics with furrowed brows and utter guffaw. When, less than fifteen minutes after she notices her sibling’s absence, Jill is threatening a random electronics van driver with a gun, our affinity with her becomes compromised, and the subsequent escalation of events only curtails any point of relativity we may have had with the character. In rendering Jill the only source of investigative edge, “Gone” lacks a clear perspective towards an increasingly colourless mystery, consistently lacklustre as a dramatic showcase. It aimlessly wanders, offering peripheral characters with no discernible purpose in furthering the narrative, underdeveloped on paper and malnourished in execution. As the inane decisions continue, one is forced to wonder why a sequence in which Jill bursts in on a gay couple getting down and dirty in their bedroom has made the final cut, rather than a scene exploring her relationship with either her sister, or the case’s chief suspect.

Clearly hoping to evoke the mystery of backstory in “Halloween” and the desperate high-stakes chase evident in “Taken,” Dahlia’s film achieves neither objective, lacking an effective relationship dynamic or strong opposition to justice within its 'Without a Trace' conceit. Severely lacking in fresh ideas for the ‘missing’ thriller sub-genre, its chief claim to fame is coining the term “rapey-eyes,” a phrase the Oxford English Dictionary would be wise to ignore. Audiences should be advised to exercise that same ignorance with “Gone,” and hope for Amanda Seyfried that this represents her “Flightplan” or “Freedomland” amid otherwise distinguished pursuits.

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