Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Review: Gone Baby Gone

Starring: Casey Affleck, Michelle Monaghan, Morgan Freeman, Ed Harris
Director: Ben Affleck
Release Date: October 19, 2007
Running time: 115 min

MPAA Rating: R
Distributors: Miramax





“I am going to ask questions. If you don't answer fully and truthfully, you will suffer much more than you have to.” - Creasy, Man on Fire

“He lied to me. Now I can't think of one reason big enough for him to lie about that's small enough not to matter.” -
Patrick Kenzie, Gone Baby Gone


The Skinny:
Ben Affleck directs and co-writes the script adapted from the author of Mystic River.


The Review:
Amanda, a 4-year-old girl goes missing in the south Boston neighborhood of Dorchester. Private investigators Patrick Kenzie (Casey Affleck) and his girlfriend and partner Angie Gennaro (Michelle Monaghan) are hired by the missing girl’s aunt to assist Police Chief Doyle (Morgan Freeman) in talking to a neighborhood reluctant to discuss anything with the cops. Amanda’s mother, Helene (Amy Ryan), is a strung out drug-addled alcoholic. That she acts like she could give a rat’s ass less and could easily be a prime suspect is the exact reason to decide that she isn’t.

The Departed, Mystic River, The Boondock Saints, and now Gone Baby Gone. As much as I hate clich├ęs (and it doesn’t get worse than this), Boston is becoming the new New York City when it comes to settings for good crime movies. The neighborhood, really - or more specifically both Affleck’s acquaintance with it - becomes sort of a character on its own. The mood the setting gives off, the people in the background, the language used; all of it.

The movie does have its share of awards worthy performances. Casey Affleck is brilliant in this movie. There is a sense that he knows he is in over his head, yet he has the fortitude to grow into the situation and stand his ground regardless. Ed Harris is lights out as Detective Remy Bressant.

Ben Affleck’s script is not only very tight and well structured, but he could not have hit a bigger homerun in his directorial debut. Imagine your public career being one of the bigger laughing stocks of the business for the last five years. Imagine wanting to rid yourself of that stigma. What do you do? Surely you don’t chose to adapt a screenplay from a book written by the guy who wrote Mystic River. You remember; that movie that had it not been for The Lord of the Rings: ROTK would have won Clint Eastwood another Oscar, so you can have immediate comparisons drawn, right?

That sounds exactly like the corner a post-Daredevil Affleck would have painted himself into. Only this time the joke is on us. Ben Affleck directs a very tight movie that burns slow at first while it mounts the tension. Once we get to the point where we start peeling away the layers, you can’t help but be impressed with the story itself. But look closer and pay attention to the shot selection. About halfway through, the movie seems to abruptly end. So abrupt that I looked at my watch and wondered what they were going to do with the other hour that was left. As Affleck continues to tell this story and you go back over everything, you realize that there wasn’t one wasted shot in the movie. Every one of them serves a purpose to the story. All the clues are there, even blatantly out in the open sometimes, but Affleck wisely chooses his shot selection such that we see everything we need to see to figure out the story, even if he doesn’t make it apparent that it will end up being part of the story.

What started as your garden variety kidnapping movie ended up being so much more. Not just the difference between right and wrong, but the definitions of the two, the degree to which people can be right and or wrong, and everyone’s interpretations of what they perceive all of it to be. The movie begs the question, “How far would you go to do the right thing?” Everyone in the movie has an agenda and a solid argument for why their definition is right, but this movie, and the questions it raises, is much more than a simply right and wrong. If only it were that easy.

In the end, there are no clear cut answers. Days later I am still torn, even as I sit her typing. Arguing what is right by law and right for the girl is like arguing the difference between ethics and morals. The story is told so well, and with such moral ambiguity, that as an audience we cannot simply sit back and judge the characters for making the decisions they made, we are forced both to make one for ourselves and be able to argue our justification. Simple yes or no just doesn’t cut it. Without giving anything away, the last scene of the movie still sticks with me. We see Kenzie sitting there, presumably both reveling in, and regretting the decision he made all at the same time. You will know this because you will be doing it in real time right along with him.

The Rub:
This is a wonderfully skillful directorial debut by Ben Affleck and equally excellent performances by Casey Affleck and Ed Harris. This movie will stay with you for a while after you’ve seen it. It is also happens to be one of the best movies of the year.

And there’s the rub.


**** out of ****

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