Review: Gone Baby Gone

Gone Baby Gone (15)

Dir. Ben Affleck

Cast. Casey Affleck, Michelle Monaghan, Ed Harris, Morgan Freeman.

4/5


Gone Baby Gone is Ben Affleck’s first outing as an actor-turned-writer-turned-director.  And the boy chose some complex and difficult subject matter in which to try his directorial wings out for the first time.

The man he entrusted to lead his debut film is little brother and acting tour-du-force, Casey Affleck.  In recent years, Casey has seemed to surpass his older sibling with meatier acting roles and more complex performances. And Gone Baby Gone is further proof that the kid carries serious clout.

Based around the books of writer Dennis Lehane and set in South Boston Gone Baby Gone begins with the disappearance of a young girl, Amanda – the innocent in this land of devils, drugs and bad parenting. Private Detectives Patrick Kenzie (Casey Affleck) and his sidekick/girlfriend Angie Gennaro (Michelle Monaghan) are hired by the child’s Aunt to augment the police investigation with one of their own, much to the indignation  of police chief, Captain Jack Doyle (Morgan Freeman) and detective Remy Bressant (Ed Harris).

Armed with street-smarts and gusto, Kenzie sets about the neighbourhood’s dealers, drug-users and degenerates and into places where the cops can’t go. And with each encounter opens the audience up further to the complications and complexities of American working class society and, as Kenzie himself puts it,  “the people who started out in the cracks… and then fell through”

The story rides the tide somewhere between pulp and film noir, but to Affleck’s (Ben) credit the self indulgence is kept to a minimum. Gone Baby Gone is very much driven by its literate narrative and stellar cast. Resisting amateur tricks occasionally employed by more seasoned directors, Affleck sticks to what he knows; filming in the South Boston he feels and understands and never allowing his audience the comfort of rising too high above the subject matter and peer down.

And this is where we can see that the director appears to take his choices as a film-maker more seriously than he did as an actor. Ben Affleck has bravely chosen not to proselytise and instead present an intelligent and ambiguous view of right and wrong and morality set in a world somewhere between the black-and-white; and even when the right thing done there is no reward; and the happy ending is dripping with a sense of despair and hopelessness.

That said, the frequent changes and twists, although never contrived can, at times, leave you playing catch up with the fundamentals of the plot. But that is a minor flaw in an otherwise accomplished film.

The performances are all superb; not least Casey Affleck who blends perfectly with his environment as man who must learn to navigate his own conscience.

The supporting cast are all well-balanced and on their game, and if Affleck can maintain this kind of instinct behind the camera, America may just have an exciting new director on their hands. In other words; the boy done good.

Trailer:

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About craig shaw
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