Dark Places

| October 10, 2015

Gone Girl was one of my favorite films from last year.  It was a really cool and thrilling murder mystery that offered a rarely amazing performance from Ben Affleck and put Rosamund Pike on my radar forever.  Pike gave one of the best performances I’ve ever seen captured on film, and I’ve gone out of my way to see her other movies since.

Gone Girl is based on a novel by Gillian Flynn, who also wrote the novel that this film, Dark Places, is based on so of course I jumped at the chance to see what else she has up her sleeve.  The result is another cool murder mystery but with the added twist of the murders in question taking place nearly 30 years ago.  In 1985, Libby Day (Charlize Theron; Max Max: Fury Road) was the only survivor of the massacre that wiped out her mother (Christina Hendricks; Mad Men), and sisters, presumably at the hands of her brother, Ben (Corey Stoll; Ant-Man), who has been in prison ever since.  Ben’s refusal to ask for an appeal convinces Libby and everyone else that he’s guilty, but a local Murder Club (a group who investigates murders recreationally) believes Ben is innocent and employs Libby to help them solve the 30 year old case for good.

I was a bit nervous the whole way through that I had the twist ending figured out, but I admit that I did not give Gillian Flynn enough credit and the way the plot plays out is continuously fresh and surprising.  Charlize Theron has been on fire this year with interesting roles both here and in the most recent Mad Max film, reminding people why she got that Oscar a few years back.  Her role here as a damaged survivor who has been living on donations from strangers and book deals about her personal tragedy is compelling and relatable while being a refreshing take on a familiar trope.  The whole concept of her desperation for money forcing her to face her past, and the irony that the death of her family has always been her only source of income all works very well for me.

Another actor I’ve really come to like a lot is Nicholas Hoult (also from Mad Max: Fury Road), who plays the treasurer of the murder club who tracks down Libby and entices her to explore the case with him in detail.  It’s a very subtle, understated performance, who actually doesn’t do much to push the plot forward at the end of the day, but Hoult really sells it and brings a wonderful humanity to the rest of the movie.

Overall, Dark Places may not live up to the quality of Gone Girl, but it’s very enjoyable, tense, and will keep you guessing right until the end.  If you like the work of Gillian Flynn, you probably won’t be disappointed by this film.

Available now on Blu-ray and DVD from Lionsgate.

About the Author:

Joe Sanders Joe Sanders is a podcaster, playwright, and college instructor in Kalamazoo, MI. He has a master's degree in playwriting and a bachelor's degree in creative writing from Western Michigan University, where he currently teaches thought and writing, and is the host of the Quote Unquote Guilty podcast, part of the Word Salad Network.
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