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I had not read the book before watching this film, so I had no idea about the plot, other than a wife disappears and the husband is a suspect. The plot slowly builds up so that the audience at some point before its actual revelation discovers on her / his own what this is all about. I think this allowing the audience to discover what’s going on just in time before telling them is is intentional, but I was not perfectly sure about that. Maybe it was just because any other plot development would not make any sense, to the point of not justifying writing a novel or making a film out of it…. In either case: The twist can hardly catch you completely by surprise. We had this “oh yeah, we get it” feeling in our screening, and oddly enough, this did not come with a sense of satisfaction, but maybe with a bit of disappointment  when it was confirmed on the screen some minutes later. This is all the whole mess is about? There certainly must be more to it, yes? Let’s wait and see.

While I liked the film in general for its great look and some very solid acting, that feeling of disappointment never quite left me. I think it comes down to the script being excessively simplistic, while at the same time the authors seem to believe that they are particularly clever.  There are a few changes in direction, sure, but they are not so many, and they are not as subtle as they would like to be. The way the media turns against Ben Affleck’s character and then immediately loves him. Only to hate him again… they way one of the investigating police officers systematically despises him, while the other one insists on listening to the voice of reason… The way you interpret both Affleck’s husband and Rosamund Pike’s wife’s part in this drama… At some point the film is over and we are left with not so much a “WTF?” but rather a “Hmmm… ok, yes, that’s one way of ending it” thought in our heads.

Maybe that’s it: the film is not as clever as its reputation, it is not a large riddle, but just a story about a not very nice husband and a less nice wife. From what I hear the depiction of the husband leaves him actually better off than in the novel on which it is based. That is a problem, because as it is there are no two sides to the conflict. While you do not need to like Affleck, there is no way of not thinking his wife should be institutionalised. She is the psychopath, and she is the one people should be scared of. The only thing Affleck is guilty of is being an unfaithful and weak asshole, but in this he plays in a completely different league from what his wife is guilty of.

So: the film lacks subtlety and complexity, explains too much in too many words (especially right after the central twist, where apparently the authors decided that at this point they have to read the whole book to the audience), maybe compromises too much for the sake of customer satisfaction. I would have wished for ore ambiguity, but what I got instead was one almost comically monstrous monster, and one slightly helpless jerk.

Visually and musically a feast, of course, with all the DPs and score composers in place that you need for a great movie experience. I had to think back to films like Mystic River, however, or Gone Baby Gone, or even the recent (and flawed) Prisoners. You can do this with a better script, and then you have a much better film…

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