Those readers who like classic suspense thrillers will want to get out and catch “Gone” before it is. Heitor Dhalia’s streamlined little pulse prompter will have its audiences ducking and swerving and glibly nodding along with a heroine played by Amanda Seyfried all the way through to the story’s completion.
Besides, “Gone” features the first really memorable movie quote of 2012: “I’ll sleep when he’s dead.”
Jill (Seyfried) says that. She’s talking to the police, who don’t believe her story that her sister, Holly, has been kidnapped by a serial killer. The cops know that Jill claims to have been snatched by the same guy a while back and to have been dropped by him into a deep pit out in the forest near her native Portland Oregon.
We revisit her terrifying experiences in flashbacks. She found human remains in the pit. Using the sharp end of a bone as a spear, she stabbed her abductor when he announced “It’s time” and climbed down into the pit to get her. Then she escaped, according to her story.
The moviegoer doesn’t know whether to believe her or the official version of things. Jill did spend a long time in a mental hospital. And Molly has had trouble, too. After the accidental deaths of their parents, Molly got to boozing. But recently the girls have been living together with the one encouraging her sister not to drink and the other encouraging her sister to take her mood altering pills.
Jill has a late night job waiting tables at a diner (which closes before breakfast—this was the only false seeming detail in the film). She has taken to training at a combat gym. She has been searching areas of the forest for the pit. And she has bought a revolver.
She came home from work one morning, expecting to awaken her sister for a college final. But Molly was nowhere to be found, and she seemed to have left wearing her pajamas and leaving her purse behind. Molly’s beau Billy agrees to stop by the final and see if she shows up. Jill visits the police, but they refuse to take seriously her idea that Molly has been abducted by a serial killer.
So it is up to Jill to find Molly. She begins inventing lies to explain the odd questions she asks a series of possible witnesses. A neighbor remembers a plumber’s van honking outside the girls’s house the night before. A plumber loaned the van to a man who supposedly lived at a flea bag hotel.
Hearing of the 38 caliber gun, the cops come looking for Jill and she has to keep turning off her cell phone, finding new forms of transport, and ignoring calls from her supposed friends who have been told she has flipped out. At the hotel she finds a matchbook cover from the diner and remembers a customer the night before who left her a very large tip.
Further detective work takes her into the forest. The unsmiling Jill follows directions to a campsite, directions which lead her far away from any possible friendly interference. And as the viewer watches, fearing the moment our heroine will be attacked, he remembers the odd cop who seemed to be flirting with Jill, the skateboarder who described her suspect as having “rapey eyes,” the lying Billy, the musician stalker who bothered Molly, and the insomniac neighbor.
The ending is clean and admirable, conclusive and, dramatically speaking, no let-down. But the film’s greatest strengths are in Jill’s ability to lie plausibly and its demonstration of the most maddening thing about police practice, the speed with which investigators close their minds. Seyfried fans and people who just like the movies will find “Gone” satisfying.