Ben Affleck's latest character is rehearsing a TV chat show interview about the disappearance of his wife when he’s asked to try again – and not be so wooden.
This lovely moment neatly sums up the actor’s own remarkable change of fortunes, from being the star of flops like Gigli to becoming the heartbeat of landmark thrillers.
Affleck has already turned his career around by directing Gone Baby Gone, The Town and the Oscar-winning Argo.
Now he’s the remarkably-calm central figure of an admirably-tense mystery from master director David Fincher (Se7en / Zodiac).
En route to a new ending, Gillian Flynn’s self-adapted story from her bestselling novel begins with husband Nick Dunne (Affleck) reporting his wife missing on the night of their fifth wedding anniversary.
Police investigations and his own background inevitably turn the finger of suspicion – and media spotlight – on to Dunne himself.
But, if Nick did kill Amy (Rosamund Pike), where is the telling evidence. And, more importantly, her body?
Gone Girl tells two parallel stories within the time frame of the bizarre case, with supporting characters including Nick and Amy’s distraught parents (David Clennon, Lisa Beth) and Nick’s sister Margo (Carrie Coon), never Amy’s No 1 fan.
It builds up the tension about whether Nick is telling the truth – and how it will all be resolved.
By cleverly weaving the criminal aspect of the couple’s background into the nature of mass media coverage of a ‘big’ story, Fincher illustrates how people jump to conclusions at different hurdles while defence teams think of the bigger picture.
Just like my memories of Se7en from 1996, some of the dialogue is hard to hear – even though it isn’t raining relentlessly in this film. Perhaps that’s just Fincher’s style to add another layer of intrigue while challenging our detective skills and playing with our emotions.
The mammoth 149-minute running time is 22 minutes longer than Se7en.
The first half feels a touch laboured and the second stretches credibility.
Although this is definitely not reality, one particularly gruesome X-rated moment, when sex combines with violence in a fashion rarely seen in mainstream cinema, had my fellow audience members gasping out loud.
New Batman star Affleck is arguably kept on an even keel for too long.
But the career-best bravura of former Bond girl Pike (Die Another Day) surpasses fellow Brit Kate Winslet’s efforts in Little Children (2006) and Revolutionary Road (2008).
She deserves an Oscar nomination.