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February 27, 2012

 Once upon a time Amanda Seyfried was considered Hollywood’s newest up and comer destined for greatness. Her role as the pretty but dumb-as-rocks Karen Smith in 2004’s iconic comedy Mean Girls impressed film goers and critics enough that whispers of a blossoming career began. Yet Seyfried has had a problem with consistency in her quality of movies chosen over the years, with her peak arguably being 2010’s erotic thriller, Chloe, and her trough beings the tragically awful Catherine Hardwicke directed Red Riding Hood. Now Seyfried stars in the Heitor Dhalia directed psychological thriller Gone. There’s no doubt about it, Seyfried has talen. The problem, however, just may lie in her agent who seems to continuously find steaming piles of crap for Seyfried to drag her name through.

After being abducted by a deranged serial killer months prior to the films events, Jill (Amanda Seyfried) is back home living with her older sister Molly (Emily Wickersham) and attempting to regain her sanity and place in society—although I’m not sure how being a waitress working the graveyard shift at a seedy diner helps. A nervous wreck, Jill lives in perpetual fear that the man she escaped from will return to finish the job leading her to obsessively hound police investigators Powers (Daniel Sunjata), Erica (Katherine Moenning) and new officer Peter Hood (Wes Bentley) whenever a young girl in town goes missing.

Yet officers are hesitant to reopen her case and take her claims seriously due to her reputation of being a rumored nutjob who may or may not have made up her abduction since no hole in which she claimed to be thrown into was ever found and no evidence of her abduction even exists. While working one night Jill returns home to find her sister missing from bed with all signs pointing to a kidnapping. Convinced that her abductor has returned for her but took her sister by mistake, Jill decides to start her own manhunt to solve the case once and for all.

You know, this look.

I give kudos to Gone for knowing the mechanics of how a Thriller film is supposed to work. There are certain motifs within the Thriller genre that Gone almost perfects in order to create a high-tension thrill ride. Dahlia’s frequent use of tight close-up shots and low angles help build tension and an air of mistrust that is meant to keep audiences’ hearts racing and their eyes glued to the screen. The film is also conveniently set in Portland, Oregon which allows the weather throughout the film to be rainy and drab giving a reason for low lighting to create the film’s dank, blue-tinged dark look, a look that most Thrillers tend to have.

However knowing the conventions of a Thriller or any genre doesn’t make a film an exceptional example of said genre. Despite Gone’s ability to look like a quality Thriller it is anything but as there is nothing creative or even exciting about Gone. While elements of previous Thrillers throughout the years like Kiss the Girls, Copycat and even Seven are present in Gone, there’s nothing about Gone that makes it unique or able to stand out among the myriad other psychological thrillers that have come before it. Plus Gone’s PG-13 rating ensures that the film has the potential to be nothing more than a watered down story with little development due to being aimed at teens.

Halfway into Gone the theater I was in experienced a power outage. The screen went black during the middle of a dialogue followed by the all the lights cutting off. An audience member in front of me slyly commented that the film’s slowness was probably the reason for black out. At first I thought, “Come on give it time to develop” but as I checked the time and realized I was 45 minutes into the film it dawned on me that the speed of Gone was about as fast as a turtle in a wheel.  With a running time of barely 90 minutes, Gone still finds a way to not really achieve anything. It’s a slow and drawn out story with the action only consisting of about 15 minutes of the film, if even that. Aside from the film’s last 10 minutes in which a minor struggle takes place, the heart-thumping action of Gone mainly consists of Jill snooping around, ducking behind corners to avoid being seen, being chased by cops at 40 MPH in poorly equipped cars, and brandishing but barely ever using a pistol. The film attempts to build audiences tensions up through expectations but lets us down through weak execution resulting in the worst case of cinematic blue balls.

Almost as blue as the film's lighting.

Much of Gone plays out like an episode of Law & Order: Special Victims’ Unit. In fact the whole film feels like a slightly longer episode with less interesting characters and a bland story. Every stranger Jill questions conveniently remembers everything Jill wants and needs to know of the man she’s never seen. She handily finds receipts of the perpetrator, learns the make and model of his car, where he’s living, where’s he going next, what he looks like, what his profession is, and what he ate. I wouldn’t have been surprised if she asked a bathroom attendant if they’d seen him and the answer was a yes followed by a detailed account of if he went number one or two and for how long.

And the ending. Dear God, the ending. I won’t say much in fear of ruining the slight surprise the film delivers but the ending is a piece of work to say the least. Gone builds and builds allowing audiences to think there can only be one of two outcomes but then just throws an unnecessary curve ball that zips you in the face leaving you with a head swimming in confusion and pain. Oh how I hated that ending!

Gone tried, it really did and that is obvious which makes for a slightly entertaining movie. Very slightly. However, it just doesn’t succeed in any shape, way or form. If you have a weak spot for Thrillers or find yourself constantly trapped watching those Law & Order marathons on Sundays, then you may find slight amusement with Gone. Yet I wouldn’t recommend anyone spend money to go out and see this. I wouldn’t even suggest renting it. Red Box it for a dollar in three months or just illegally download it. It’s not worth much else.

AVOID IT. There’s no reason to waste your time.

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