Silver Screen: Gone **1/2
A mostly unheralded foreign director making his English-language feature debut with a generic-sounding serial-killer flick released on the weekend of the Oscars with little to no marketing or fanfare: sounds like a perfect recipe for one of the most forgettable failures of the year. Even the title, Gone, is maddeningly vague and hard to remember.
Yet Brazilian director Heitor Dhalia very nearly overcomes the odds to make this castoff thriller a little bit memorable. Alas, a shaky final act robs the movie of the momentum it's generated. The prophecy will indeed come to pass, and this one will be quickly consigned to Netflix instant-play purgatory; its headstone will be one unceremonious line on star Amanda Seyfried's IMDb page. But it should be noted that Gone is very nearly pretty good.
The marketing department did a terrible job of explaining the movie's premise, which isn't a bad one: One night Jill (Seyfried) is knocked unconscious and kidnapped, only to wake up in a deep hole in the woods just outside her hometown of Portland, Oregon. When her captor descends into the darkness to finish her off, she fights back and escapes, but after she relays her incredible story to the police they can find no DNA evidence to support her claim, nor can they locate the hole in which she was kept or any trace of the human remains she said she encountered at the site.
Two years later, traumatized Jill lives with her sister Molly (Emily Wickersham) and spends her time trying to hold it together, taking rigorous self-defense classes and working nights as a waitress. When Molly goes missing, Jill is convinced she was abducted by the killer, who returned looking to tie up loose ends and nabbed the wrong girl.
The detective in charge of her case (Rescue Me's Daniel Sunjata) is skeptical of Jill's claims, but a newer officer (Wes Bentley) is intrigued by her story and vows to uncover the truth. Jill refuses to wait for officials to treat her sister's disappearance as a matter of life-and-death, so she launches a one-woman search party through the streets of Portland that will finally reveal whether or not her trauma was all in her head.
Gone is nicely compact, running right at an hour and a half and, with the exception of a few quick flashbacks, taking place during the course of a single day and night. The narrowed timeline and streamlined action helps build tension immediately, although slowly. Allison Burnett's script starts off as a slow burn; there's precious little gore or gunplay for the first hour, but all the while the tension is mounting. Gone holds back and plays it mostly subtle, leading up to a climax that will either reveal our heroine to be mad or result in her final confrontation with her secret tormentor.
But after doing the hard work of letting all that pressure build, Burnett and Dhalia let it go not with a bang but with a sad, squeaky fart sound. With almost no fanfare, the movie is suddenly just over. Even though all the big questions are technically answered, there's no depth to the solution, nor anything like an emotional resolution. Meanwhile, several elements of the film, most notably the subplot involving Bentley's helpful detective, are rendered moot. These dangling storylines aren't red herrings, they're just loose ends.
It's an odd failure, considering Burnett and Dhalia succeeded at the more difficult tasks of creating sympathetic characters and an intriguing (if not terribly high-concept) scenario. The flat ending suggests the story needed just one more rewrite, a little polish, a little more payoff. Gone was never going to be high art, but it could have been a nifty throwaway thriller like the underappreciated Vacancy or Joyride. Now it's fated not just to be Gone, but forgotten.
Follow Bryan Miller on Twitter@bmillercomedy.