There’s a thin line between straightforward and uninteresting
Modern thrillers are typically bogged down with fantastical plots, unnecessary twists and red herrings. Gone avoids most of these pitfalls with a simple thriller plotline that’s easy to follow. In doing so, it becomes a boring potboiler.
Waitress Jill (Amanda Seyfried: In Time) comes home from an overnight shift to find her sister Molly (Emily Wicker: I Am Number Four) gone. This wouldn’t be a big deal, except that a year ago, Jill was abducted from her bed and held in a dank pit filled with bones.
Even worse, the police didn’t believe Jill’s report of her miraculous escape from certain death and sent her to a psych ward. Undeterred, she gets herself out of the mental hospital and divides her days between searching the woods for her place of captivity and harassing the police whenever a missing girl is reported.
At night, Jill trains in hand-to-hand combat and waits tables in a greasy spoon. She’s one handful of anti-anxiety pills away from a total breakdown.
So you can imagine how well she takes the sudden disappearance of her sister. Convinced the serial killer is back to exact revenge on the one that got away, Jill believes her sister has only hours to live.
The police force is so laughably incompetent that they won’t listen to Jill’s fears. Even given ample evidence that Molly has indeed met with foul play, they are too busy drinking coffee to be bothered.
Being of not-so-sound mind, Jill resorts to tracking down her former captor, intending to force him to reveal her sister’s location and kill him. Easy enough, especially considering Jill’s been training for this very opportunity.
So like Jack Bauer with flowing blonde locks, Jill searches for answers, using only tenacity and a gun. When the police learn that their favorite mental patient is running around town armed, they aren’t thrilled. They still don’t care about the sister, but they dread the paperwork required if Jill shoots someone.
So now Jill must duck the cops and track down the serial killer before the moon rises and her sister dies. Trouble is, this overwhelming-sounding task is fairly easy in Gone.
And that’s the problem. We all love it when a plan comes together, but there’s very little drama if everything works out perfectly. It’s nice that Jill is such a competent lead, but by never challenging any of her plans, the film makes you think she’s either a clairvoyant or crazy — just like the cops said.
This isn’t totally Siegfried’s fault, as Jill is just a tough victim with very little to flesh out her character. Gone is never more than a pale imitation of the Ashley Judd revenge films of the mid 1990s.
Seyfried tries to infuse tension and grit into her character, but Jill seems to only have two modes: hysteria and Death Wish.
The movie also stereotypes police. There’s the tough yet understanding cop who wants to believe her. The creepy cop with rapey eyes who disappears at odd times. The tough female cop who doesn’t care about brushing her hair or Jill …
Lacking a complex script, we’re given red herrings, with characters suspiciously disappearing or sinking into shadowy corners.
All together, this movie has about as many genuine shocks and twists as an episode of Dateline.