DIRECTED BY: Heitor Dahlia
WRITTEN BY: Allison Burnett
STARRING: Amanda Seyfried, Jennifer Carpenter, Wes Bentley, Daniel Sanjata
RUNNING TIME: 94 mins
REVIEWED BY: Dr Lenera, Official HCF Critic
One year ago, Jill Conway was kidnapped by a serial killer who abandoned her in a hole in the forest, where she found human remains. When her abductor descended into the hole to kill her, Jill was able to knock him unconscious with a bone and climb his rope and return to civilization. However, the police didn’t find the hole and discovered that Jill had been committed to a psychiatric institution for several years after her parents’ death. Believing that the abduction only happened in Jill’s head, they closed the case. Now, Jill is living with her sister Molly, a recovering alcoholic. She returns home from working a night shift at the local diner to find Molly gone. Knowing that Molly wouldn’t leave the house with Jill absent and that she had an important test the following day, Jill becomes convinced that the man who took her has now captured Molly……
Gone has arrived in the UK with a bit of a bad reputation. For a start, it hasn’t been screened for critics, and I have the feeling that if it wasn’t for the popularity of Amanda Seyfried it would have gone straight to DVD/Blu Ray. It really isn’t that bad though. If you caught this one evening on TV you’ll be reasonably entertained and even satisfied. The trouble with Gone is that you’ll catch stuff like it on TV most evenings. It’s a perfectly professional piece and has nothing especially bad about it, but it doesn’t have anything especially good about it either, it just sits there and never develops into the exciting, nail biting thriller that it often seems on the verge of doing. I doubt you’ll totally regret watching it, even at the cinema, and it seems to be one of those films that people are choosing to hate before they have actually seen it, but you’ll probably have forgotten most of it a few days later.
It certainly doesn’t waste much time getting into its plot. Jill’s past experience is only revealed to us in brief clips, so in a sense the movie is telling us two stories at the same time, and for a while it does seem possible that Jill imagined her supposed kidnapping. That would have made for a more interesting movie than what we get, giving more weight to the way the police constantly disbelieve her when her sister is supposedly kidnapped. As it stands, the police seem incredibly stupid and even arrogant in this film, and you start to hate them. Any interesting psychological dimensions soon become lost as the story sinks into a format of; Jill does some investigating and is caught up with by the police, over and over again. Suspects are plentiful; there’s a friendly but rather creepy policeman, a locksmith and his perhaps ‘backward’ son, a hardware shop owner who seems too keen to help etc; – but these characters are often thrown at us and scream ‘RED HERRING!!’. The constant presence of the police results in some quite exciting chasing around, but it seems superfluous to the main story, and may even cause laughter. Jill appears to be trapped in a toilet from which she cannot escape from, yet the next scene shows her on the street, though this is not as stupid as a bit where she visits a work colleague, someone she is not on good terms with, and asks to borrow her car, and the friend agrees immediately, despite the fact that Jill is on the run from the police and could possibly be insane.
Still, the picture moves forward at a fairly fast pace and, about two thirds of the way through, builds up some considerable tension. A scene where Jill goes to meet someone who might just be the kidnapper/killer in a forest is a great example of mounting suspense, with the sequence taking forever but superbly executed and the audience expecting a sudden shock at any moment. It seem like we are going to get a really thrilling climax, but…….we don’t. It’s almost as if director Heitor Dahlia and writer Allison Burnett have just given up. I also think Gone would have been fine with a ‘12’ certificate rather than the ‘15’ it has received. Okay, it may be a bit ‘strong’ for under 15s, but considering how films like The Hunger Games and The Woman In Black receive ‘12’s these days, some consistency needs to be in order. There is little on screen violence and in fact the film seems rather timid, constantly refusing to delve into its darker, murkier and frankly more interesting elements.
Brazilian director Heitor Dahlia does quite a good job but sadly often hints at thrills to come which don’t materialise. I like the way he has the camera rise into the air and turn to watch Jill whenever Jill is about to enter a new building, as if she is constantly being watched. Dahlia likes the ‘shaky cam, close up’ style I feel is ruining films at the moment but doesn’t employ too often and one car chase has a Paul Greengrass energy about it, Greengrass being one of the few directors I think uses that style well. Amanda Seyfried is improving with each film as an actress and is especially good in the scenes where she is expressing rage or frustration. I believe that, given the right role, she could really shine. Another good contributor to the film is composer David Buckley, whose ambient sounds almost get under the skin and really give you the impression that excitement and even terror awaits. Well, let me tell you now that they don’t, but Gone is certainly not an unpleasant experience. Unlike, for example, This Means War, I didn’t feel like asking for a refund after watching it. The whole film is just “meh”, even “okay”, which is almost a recommendation. Almost……..