Amanda Seyfried is quietly developing one of the most unique and well rounded resumes of her generation of Hollywood talent. Any actress that can transition from a musical like Mamma Mia!, and completely outshine a fairly legendary cast, to an erotic thriller like Chloe and hold her own screen with Julianne Moore is doing something right. And sometimes a solid thriller like Gone is good for the resume in the long run; while it’s not a brilliant film by any stretch of the imagination it’s a starring vehicle for her that utilizes her presence wonderfully.
Jill (Seyfried) is a college student with a seemingly normal life. The only difference is that some time before the film started she was abducted and nearly killed by a crazed serial killer. No one believes her, though, and that’s a problem. Multiple women have disappeared and presumably died ever since then. The police don’t believe this is the work of a serial killer, just troubled girls running away from their problems, and Jill spent some time in an institution after her abduction as well. As far as the world is concerned she’s a nutjob who made up a story about nearly dying for attention. Now any time a girl disappears she’s bothering the police about it but it doesn’t get truly serious until her sister gets taken by the same man. Now it’s time for Jill to play vigilante and track this man down by herself.
The film essentially functions in the same manner a procedural would be about a police officer following their “hunch” against orders from on top. Jill is just a civilian, not a police officer, and as such has to avoid the law while getting tips from a friend on the inside while tracking down the killer through good old fashioned detective work. She’ s just not a private investigator hired to find someone, though, and it gives her character more of a vested interest than a gumshoe hired by a femme fatale ala Devil in a Blue Dress and hundreds of other detective films & novels.
It’s an interesting role for Seyfried, who does enough to keep it interesting, but what makes the film engaging is that it doesn’t go for an obvious twist. Normally in this case if Gone was going to go for a twist it’d be easy to spot from the law of economy of characters. It plays it straight, though, as Jill does good old fashioned detective work but in a much more aesthetically pleasing manner.
Seyfried isn’t brilliant in the film but it’s a solid genre performance. She has enough screen presence and charisma to overcome what’s a fairly limited character; Jill has a substantial backstory that fuels her character but she’s never really developed beyond the “she might be crazy or she might be telling the truth” aspect of it. We have just enough insight into Jill to get behind her and want to see her through until the end but not enough to really get involved with her as a character.
And that’s the problem; the film does everything else really well as a thriller. This is fairly conventional genre material, not all that surprising considering Seyfried and the rest of the cast has conventional and clichéd character types out of a thriller, but it’s well done. It has a fast pace and sets a great tone to it; Jill knows she only has an ever shortening window to save her sister and find out who the killer is and has an intensity to her that’s aided by the film’s brisk pace.
Gone may not elevate itself beyond merely being a genre film but that’s not a bad thing; sometimes just being a good genre film is more than enough.
Director: Hector Dhalia Notable Cast: Amanda Seyfried, Jennifer Carpenter, Wes Bentley, Daniel Sunjata Writer(s): Allison Burnett