CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT: GONE (2012)
By Michael Arruda
(The Scene: A police station. MICHAEL ARRUDA is arguing with several homicide detectives.)
MICHAEL ARRUDA: Aren’t you going to look for him? I told you, he’s missing. He was supposed to do this review with me, but he never showed up.
DETECTIVE #1: Hasn’t he missed reviews before? We know for a fact that you guys on occasion write solo reviews.
MA: You read the column?
DETECTIVE #1: Yep.
MA: Like it?
DETECTIVE #1: Love it.
MA: Thank you.
DETECTIVE #2: Didn’t you say he was going to a party afterwards? Maybe he just blew you off and went straight to the party.
MA: He’s not there. I checked.
DETECTIVE #2: I think you should come with us.
DETECTIVE #1: We read the column, remember? We know you two are constantly trying to do each other in. If he’s missing, you’re our #1 suspect.
SUSPECT #1 (upon entering scene): Then, who am I?
MA: An unpaid extra. Okay, folks, this opening has gone on long enough, and since things aren’t looking too good for me, I’m outta here! I’ll have to find L.L. on my own!
(MA flees the police station, jumps into a car, and speeds away, leading the police on a high speed chase.)
MA: Looks like I’m going to have to drive and review today’s movie at the same time, as well as find L.L. Luckily, I can multitask.
(Car nearly hits an old lady crossing the street, but MA swerves out of the way just in time.)
MA: Sorry, ma’am! (She flips him the bird.) (He shakes his head) Old ladies today!
Anyway, today I’m reviewing GONE (2012), the new thriller starring one of my favorite young actresses working today, Amanda Seyfried. And you know what? Seyfried can carry a movie. She carries GONE, because without her, this film’s got nothing.
In GONE, Amanda Seyfried plays Jill, a young woman who claims she was abducted by a strange man and held in a hole in the middle of the woods, before she managed to escape. The police don’t believe her story because they never found the hole or any other evidence that corroborated her story.
Furthermore, Jill believes her abductor is a serial killer, and she has researched information of other women who have gone missing in the area over the years, and she hounds the police incessantly about her phantom kidnapper. Needless to say, she has not made herself many friends on the force.
When Jill’s sister Molly (Emily Wickersham) disappears just before an important college exam, Jill is convinced that Molly has been abducted by the same man. Of course, the police don’t believe her. They believe it’s all in Jill’s head, as she has a history of psychological problems.
Without the police’s help, Jill decides it’s up to her to find and rescue her sister. Jill also believes—because her abductor prepared to kill her at sunset— that the man will also kill her sister by sunset, and so she knows she only has the one day to save her sister. And she’ll have to elude the police to do it, because they consider her armed and dangerous. She’s carrying a gun, which she’s not supposed to be doing because of her psychiatric record.
And so it’s a race against time. Jill has less than 24 hours to locate and save her sister, all the while on the run from the police. Unless of course, the police are right, and there is no serial killer.
(MA races through a red light, plowing through a busy intersection of fast moving cars and trucks. Miraculously, MA’s car makes it through without a scratch.)
MA: Gotta love CGI!
There’s really not a lot to this movie. GONE is a very average thriller. It’s got an average cast and an average storyline, but it also has Amanda Seyfried, who is anything but average. She’s in nearly every scene, and I never got tired of watching her. As I said earlier, she carries this movie. Without her, I wouldn’t like this movie, but with her, I gotta say I enjoyed it.
I thought she played Jill perfectly. Jill is incredibly driven in her quest to save her sister. She pulls guns on people, lies, makes up one story after another, takes people’s cars—behaviors that can easily be confused with insanity. She does all this because she only has one day to save her sister’s life.
Seyfried convinced me that Jill firmly believes that her sister will die unless she finds her. There is a heightened desperation to her performance, as if the character is overtaken by adrenaline and never stops.
Going in, I wasn’t crazy about the story, which I had seen neatly explained in the movie’s trailers. Is Jill insane, or did someone really abduct her before, the same someone who now has her sister? Fortunately, I didn’t have a lot of time to think about it during the film, because I was too busy watching Seyfried in action, evading the police while playing private investigator. The movie’s paced very well. Director Heitor Dhalia keeps things brisk.
(MA’s car races along highway in fast motion, with a long line of police cars in hot pursuit.)
MA: Allison Burnett wrote the screenplay, and she also wrote the screenplay for UNDERWORLD: AWAKENING (2012). I’m sure writing a script for a cookie-cutter sequel in a dreadful series isn’t the best indicator of one’s writing talents. Burnett does a much better job with GONE, which is a much better movie than UNDERWORLD: AWAKENING. Then again, there aren’t going to be a whole lot of movies worse than UNDERWORLD: AWAKENING. At least GONE has characters who speak real dialogue and actually sound and act like real people.
(Car pulls up to MA’s car. It’s driven by a vampire.)
VAMPIRE: Hey! I heard what you said. I’m insulted.
MA: Why? You think you act and sound like a real person? If that were the case, you’d be swearing at me right now for doing this.
(MA swerves his car and knocks vampire’s car off the road.)
VAMPIRE: I will avenge this act of violence against my kind! I will seek the assistance of—. (His car crashes and blows up.)
MA: See what I mean? Phony video game vampire speak.
Seriously, though, the story in GONE is nothing to write home about. It’s all rather silly when you think about it, and even though this one rose above its material, I did have several beefs with its story.
For starters, Jill finds clues so easily in this movie, the police here must be dolts. She’s able to track down all this information in so short a time, and yet the police have had months to do the same but haven’t been able to come up with anything? The premise that Jill can solve this mystery in less than 24 hours is not very believable.
Neither are the arguments the police use to debunk Jill’s assertions about her abduction. The main reason the police don’t believe her story is because they weren’t able to find the hole in the park where she was buried, and thus couldn’t confirm her story. This would make sense if it were a little park, but the park in the movie is a vast expanse of wilderness. We’re talking acres here! And they’re supposed to locate a little hole in the middle of the woods, and when they can’t, they assume it’s not there? So, they just throw in the towel and call Jill crazy? It’s kind of a dumb argument.
The police also cite the fact that Jill couldn’t identify her abductor as a reason why she couldn’t be believed. Really? You don’t think that a serial killer might try and hide his identity? The police found this suspicious. I didn’t.
The movie just doesn’t do a good job of making us see the police’s side of the story. Their arguments have holes.
Another drawback is that GONE lacks a villain. Since Seyfried carries this movie on her back, the film could have certainly used the presence of a nasty bad guy, but because throughout the movie we’re never sure if there really is a bad guy, a screen villain is obviously— and noticeably— absent.
I was dreading the ending to this one big time. I feared it would be the old “the killer is the last person we expect” trick, which usually is a forced plot point and makes no sense. Luckily, that’s not the case in GONE. As I watched the ending play out, fearing the worst, I suddenly realized, “this ending works!” The fact that I wasn’t down on the ending was a pleasant surprise.
(MA drives into the woods. Pulls car over and gets out.)
MA: I’m here in the woods because I just received a clue. (holds up phone with text message that reads, “Looking for L.L.? Try the woods.”)
As I said earlier, the rest of the cast is average. Daniel Sunjata, as Powers, the main cop on the case, and Katherine Moenning as his partner Erica, are both watchable, as is Wes Bentley as Peter Hood, an officer who seems to have a dark side. The same can be said for Emily Wickersham, who we saw in last year’s I AM NUMBER 4, as Jill’s sister Molly, and Sebastian Stan, as Molly’s boyfriend Billy.
Jennifer Carpenter has an absolutely thankless role as Jill’s friend, Sharon. Carpenter, if you remember, turned in a couple of memorable performances in QUARANTINE (2008) and THE EXORCISM OF EMILY ROSE (2005). Here she’s reduced to just a couple of scenes, none of them all that important.
GONE isn’t much of a thriller, either. There’s no edge-of-your-seat action, no sweaty palms, no scares. It plays much more like a mystery than a thriller, as we watch Seyfried’s Jill race against time to put the pieces of the puzzle together and find and rescue her sister.
But all this being said, I found GONE very enjoyable. I liked it a lot, and it all comes down to Amanda Seyfried. This movie works because she dominates each scene she is in, she’s extremely watchable, and even though you know this movie isn’t anything to write home about, she makes you believe in what she’s doing, she draws you into her story, and the funny thing is you don’t really care if she’s nuts or not, you still want to go along for the ride.
I give GONE three knives. Take Seyfried out of this movie, and you’re looking at maybe 1 or 2 knives, at best.
Okay, we’re in the part of the woods where— there it is! There’s the hole! L.L., are you down there? (points flashlight into hole and sees L.L. lying on the ground.)
L.L SOARES: Hey, stop shining that light in my face!
MA: What are you doing down there?
LS: What does it look like I’m doing? I was sleeping.
MA: Sleeping? In a hole in the middle of the woods?
LS: Hey, it works for bears. It’s time for me to get to that party anyway. (Climbs out of hole). So, how was GONE?
MA: I just finished reviewing it. I gave it three knives.
LS: Three knives? I think you have a crush on Amanda Seyfried.
MA: My affection for her is purely professional. Besides, you like her too.
LS: Not enough to see GONE. (Sirens are heard in the distance, getting closer.) What’s going on?
MA: It’s the police. They’re after me. It’s a long story. We’d better get out of here.
LS: It looks like another fine mess you’ve gotten us into.
MA: Well, folks, that’s it for now. We’re outta here. We’ll see you next week with a review of another new movie.
VOICE: This is the police. We have you surrounded.
(LS scurries to the hole.)
MA (to LS): Where are you going?
LS: Back into the hole. Come on down. I have widescreen TV down there. We can preview next month’s movies.
LS: Of course.
(LS & MA disappear into the hole as the police converge on the scene.)
OFFICER #1: Do you smell popcorn?
© Copyright 2012 by Michael Arruda
Michael Arruda gives GONE~three knives.
(and it doesn’t hurt if you’re an Amanda Seyfried fan)