Twenty-five years following the murders of her family as a young girl, Libby (Charlize Theron) is still haunted by the memories of that night. She’s spent those years believing her older brother killed her mother and two sisters. With her brother now in jail she think the case is behind her. However when a young man named Lyle (Nicholas Holt), Libby begins to recall the events from that night. Lyle introduces her to a society he is in that tries to prove wrongfully accused people of their innocence, Ben’s case is one of them. As Libby begins to dig deeper into Lyle’s world, she begins to learn more about that terrifying night as well as dark family secrets.
Based on the novel by Gillian Flynn, the creative mind behind Gone Girl comes a new mystery-thriller. While the story is definitely one that grabs you and keeps you engaged until the very end, it does lack a lot of the psychological mind games that Gone Girl provided. Despite this, Dark Places is a well-done film all on its own. The main story is told in present time following an adult Libby, but it has flashbacks that give us the point of view of Libby’s brother Ben, and her mother throughout the film. Some may find the flashback annoying, but in this case the flashbacks were very well-done and used. It gives us as viewers insight to the lives of the Day family leading up the murders, it also parallels Libby’s present day, when things get dark for her in the present, it also gets dark in the flashbacks. It all leads a very thrilling and heart-pounding climax in which both times have a parallel to them. In this case the editing was excellent. The story itself is also a very engaging mystery. We watch as this troubled woman is forced to dig deeper into her past in order to find the truth, and as Libby begins to want to find out more, we develop the same determination. When we first meet Libby, it’s very easy to dislike her. She’s banking off of money that people send her out of sympathy and has not once made her own cash. She claims she loves not having to do anything (but then again who doesn’t?), and she always has a piss poor attitude. But as the story continues we start to see more of her personality and how damaged she actually is and where her past has brought her up to this point. Lyle is a likable enough character, but we don’t get as much of a strong grasp on him compared to Libby and her family members. Even when we get to know Libby’s brother Ben, it gets us as viewers to think about whether he did it or not, or if he is really capable. Charlize Theron provides one of her stronger performances (though not up to Monster or Mad Max standards), but she nails the character of Libby, getting full-on not character and really being able to project the personality and emotions this character has throughout. Nicholas Holt, while certainly not bad, really doesn’t get to do a whole with his character but he provides a likable charm. But the one who really impressed the hell out of me was Chloe Grace Moretz who plays Ben’s girlfriend Diondra in the past. I’d always been a fan of Moretz and felt she had great potential, but really had to find the right role that didn’t require her to overreach and escape her current capabilities. But here, she plays a character we’ve never seen before. Diondra is a dark, manipulative, and crazy bitch that could intimidate almost anyone. And let me tell you, Moretz knocks it out of the park. If you’ve seen her in anything else, there are several moments where you can’t believe that this is the same girl from sentimental dramas and comedies. It is easily her best performance thus far, and I definitely wanted more of her than what was given (side note: there is much more Diondra in the book).
To say it lives up to its hit preceding Gillian Flynn film Gone Girl would be extremely pushing it, as Gone Girl had so much more going for it. But to say it is still an engaging thriller and if you enjoyed Gone Girl, you will enjoy this one as well despite the differences and some unbalanced characters in terms of writing. It’s a solid thriller with equally solid performances, especially by Theron and Moretz. It pulls you in and never lets go as the pieces of Libby’s past fall into place.