The femme fatale deciphered and unmasked: cold to the bone rather than rotten to the core. de Laclos had his smiling while she stuck a fork into the back of her hand under the table; Gillian Flynn goes further - she has hers actually enjoy it. At Gone Girl's own core is this very streak of cold, vivid vengeance, a reaction to the reaction against feminism and the complacency that has stunted that movement. David Fincher inflicts Flynn's revenge with wicked glee, revelling in her cruelty, and the view, more fatalistic than pessimistic, that though men may be callous and unthinking, women aren't much better at heart. But they have been wronged, and they'll always be right. That's enough to cheer about, never mind the fact that there's so much more at Gone Girl's core. As radical feminist propaganda, it's triumphant. But as a thriller, it's gripping: a mystery set in the past and in the future, where our concern is less with what has happened that we're unaware of but what's going to happen next. It strikes fear into your own core. And as a comedy, it's brutal and genuinely hilarious. Fincher and Flynn invite us to laugh with them, and at their characters, whose Machiavellian tendencies only make their pathetic pratfalls funnier. And as a character study, it's hugely satisfying, demonstrating how something so slight as an examination of a relationship can provide so much fulfillment. Fincher orchestrates a stunningly complex technical symphony too, so stylish and so astute that this already-long film could be twice its length and never run past its welcome. He'd need equally strong material with which to work though: Gillian Flynn's bravura concoction of lies and subtle misdirections, and Rosamund Pike's astounding performance as Amy Dunne. Even de Laclos would have fallen under her seductive, vindictive spell.