Movie Review: Gone

It’s a cheap shot, but here goes: My $12 are Gone, and I’m never getting them back. This thriller, directed by Heitor Dhalia, fumbles between revenge drama and psychological thriller, mastering neither with its lackluster script thud-like ending.

The film centers on Jill, played by actress Amanda Seyfried of Mean Girls and Mamma Mia! After her sister Molly (Emily Wickersham) vanishes without a trace, Jill fears her abductor from two years prior is back to exact revenge. The authorities, as usual, become an obstacle when Jill takes matters into her own hands, forcing her to both discover the kidnapper’s identity and dodge the law, all the while coping with the trauma of her past abduction.

Even in title, Gone tries hard to emulate the 2008 action thriller Taken. Both Seyfried and Taken’s Liam Neeson take no prisoners in the search for their loved ones. But while Neeson’s guns do his talking, Jill’s battles are of the verbal variety.

As Jill finds out quickly during her ‘investigation,’ lying is the key to success. Almost every conversation – and there are plenty of them – involves Jill improvising a convincing cover-up for her true intentions, and this is where Seyfried shines.

In particular, Jill posing as a high school student to duck from the cops is an entertaining and memorable diversion.

However, aside from Seyfried’s verbal shenanigans, the script is forgettable at best, and hilariously bad at its worst, like Jill’s conversation with her widower neighbor.

At times the dialogue is so stilted and unrealistic that it seems deliberate, as though Jill’s post-traumatic stress had gotten the best of her, and these conversations are nothing more than the fever dreams of a lunatic. Well, if only that were true.

Both the plot and the character development are undercooked. Minor plot inconsistencies abound, and the characters – Jill excluded – are nothing more than set pieces.

The audience has almost no reason to care about the kidnapped Molly, or Jill’s next destination, or even the killer’s identity. The ‘suspects’ that Jill crosses paths with, four or five in total, are all doppelgangers: the same slack-jawed stare, the same disgusting neck beard, and the same monotone voice. If all of the potential killers look the same and act the same, what’s the point?

In the end, there’s no overarching mystery, no “a-ha!” moment; just a seemingly pointless chase that reaches its surprisingly safe conclusion.

Taken had a similar problem, but held no pretensions that it was anything more than a simple revenge drama. In fact, it reveled in its simplicity. However, Gone tries to be more than that, with an interesting idea that never reaches fruition.

Jill’s psychological turmoil is an intriguing aspect of the story that unfortunately falls short. Flashbacks from her abduction and its aftermath are interlaced throughout, and Jill’s erratic behavior and addiction to medication indicate deep psychological trauma caused by her kidnapping.

These scenes seem to hint at a game changing revelation to come – ala Shutter Island, Memento, or any mind-bender worth its salt – but Jill’s increasingly erratic behavior has an unsatisfying payoff.

Viewers will leave the theater scratching their heads, not trying to decipher the film’s final minutes, but wondering why the film reached such a conventional, cheap conclusion. It’s instantly satisfying in the worst way possible.

On all fronts, Gone’s tale of revenge falls flat. While Seyfried turns in a decent performance, the characters are dull and the ending is nothing but wasted potential.

Ultimately, Gone feels more like a product of focus groups and targeting demographics than an honest attempt at telling a thought-provoking story.