Gone

March 3, 2012
Screen shot 2012-05-01 at 9.51.46 PM

Always beware of the film that sells itself on the appearance of some fabulous lead actor you have never previously encountered. So when one reads the proud announcements that Gone features no-one less than Amanda Seyfried (!), there is the slight, lingering question: “Who is Amanda Seyfried?”

Previous to this film, Amanda’s big break was playing Sophie in Phyllida Lloyd’s Mama Mia! (2008), which I confess to not having seen. She has also featured in a number of American tele-series, the most recent being Big Love.

To the cold eye of this reviewer, there is nothing special about Amanda. She is a big-eyed, leggy blonde with a certain ‘girl-next-door’ quality. She is not especially glamorous, and her acting is proficient at best. She completely dominates this film, being hardly ever off-screen. The problem, however, is that Gone is such a mediocre affair that no actress could be expected to excel in the lead role.

Amanda plays Jill Conway, who lives with her sister Molly, in the suburbs of Portand, Oregon. We learn that Jill was once kidnapped from her home, tied up, and thrown down a dark hole filled with the bones of previous victims. Having managed to escape from her attacker she was found by the police, who eventually decided that her story was all in her head and had her committed to an asylum. Now, years later, the mysterious psycho seems to have returned and kidnapped Molly. She runs to the police, who inevitably write her off as a looney, telling her that people have a right to disappear.

Galvanised into action, Jill takes matters into her own hands: driving around Portland in a manner that would confirm anyone’s worst ideas about her state of mental health. She also packs a .38 revolver, which she draws at every opportunity. Soon the police are chasing her while she is tracking down the kidnapper. Needless to say, she goes off to meet the would-be serial killer in a remote location in the dead of night. As you would.

As usual in a thriller, we are back with Hitchcock’s MacGuffin – the implausible device used to move the plot forward. But there is a limit to the use of the MacGuffin, and Gone oversteps the mark. The police are just too dopey and apathetic to be believed, and it seems extremely unlikely that anyone traumatised to the point of being locked up in a padded cell, would suddenly turn into Lara Croft and go chasing her attacker alone in the woods.

One might see Gone as a thriller based on the frustrations caused by mindless bureaucracy. The attitude of the Portland police will remind many viewers of phone calls to Telstra. After enduring an hour of professional obfuscation, anyone might be tempted to go tooling around at high speed, brandishing a pistol.

If Jill’s motivation is easily explained there are other elements of this film that are harder to accept. Brazilian director, Heitor Dhalia – previously known for a film about a blocked-up toilet – does a reasonable job at providing a creepy atmosphere. However, the plot is so predictable the suspense never rises above a pass mark. There are also strange discontinuities, as in the introduction of the sleazy detective, Hood, who appears set to play a vital role in the plot, but never actually does anything. One gets the impression of a rearranged script or a radical re-edit, in which part of the orginal story has been hacked out with a blunt pair of scissors.

A star vehicle for a very minor star, Gone is not the sort of event upon which a memorable career may be launched. I saw it a few days after its release, and there were only two other people in the cinema. My advice for anyone wanting to see this movie is to hurry, before it lives up to its name.

USA, Rated M, 94 minutes

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