Author Topic: Gone Baby Gone ****  (Read 1398 times)

Najemikon

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Gone Baby Gone ****
« on: January 22, 2009, 05:19:13 PM »
Gone Baby Gone
4 out of 5



In Ben Affleck's superb directorial debut, Patrick Kenzie (Casey Affleck) and Angie Gennaro (Michelle Monaghan) are private investigators asked to help search for a missing girl by her uncle. Working with two detectives (John Ashton and Ed Harris), Patrick and Angie discover everyone seems to have something to hide, not least the mother (Amy Ryan).

This is a powerful and frequently dark story that asks some difficult moral questions that will leave you thinking for days to come. It's based on a novel by Dennis Lehane, author of Mystic River, another challenging story. It starts straightforward enough; a young girl is missing, suspected kidnapped and the local community is united around the family. But the mother is completely unhelpful and soon it's revealed she's a drug runner, mixed up with some very dangerous characters. Patrick and Angie have slightly better prospects interviewing the locals because they're locals too, so they start digging through Boston's underbelly.

Later there is a shift in tone and it's no longer a simple race-against-time thriller. It has much deeper ambitions. To be honest another viewing may be in order to really appreciate it. The first half is powerful because it's all too real; the second is more specific and asks us to accept more than one contrivance, but while this may feel a little awkward, it's a means to an end. I don't want to reveal more than necessary, but it's an excruciating dilemma that will reverberate through many characters lives. Is Helene a fit mother and who, if anyone, has the right to interfere? How often does society turn a blind eye, building itself a dysfunctional future?

To really drive the point home it needs a top drawer cast and this is one of the best in recent years. Cynics may suggest Affleck has picked such a cast -including his own brother- to make it easy, but actually he's obviously inspired them to pull out all the stops. There is no showboating and they all work very well together. Ed Harris and Morgan Freeman are especially noteworthy because both of them have fallen into the trap of playing themselves in recent years, especially Freeman. Here he gives one of his best performances, capturing the conflicting emotions of a legendary police captain with a personal tragedy that is painfully reflected in this case. It's great to see John Ashton (Beverley Hills Cop, Midnight Run) as Harris' partner in a serious and substantial role that he obviously relishes too. And finally, something that the gorgeous Michelle Monaghan deserves! She's excellent in a very important role; the film could live or die on that performance, especially in the final act and she handles it brilliantly.

But the central character and the films driving force is Affleck the younger. Baby-face Casey more than holds his own with the heavyweights, just like his character. He's tough, direct, but calm and focused, while hiding deep emotional turmoil. A fantastic performance, possibly his best and that's a big statement considering his Robert Ford.

The other big character in this film is Boston, home town for the Afflecks and it shows. Ben does a fantastic job of evoking the city and it's inhabitants, frequently using locals in scenes. Environment is usually undervalued in stories like this, but gives the film huge substance and sets it apart (and better)from similar urban dramas like Training Day and Copland. In fact, it makes even Scorcese's The Departed look lazy in comparison. I really look forward to Ben Afflecks next film. I keep using the word substance and I can't think of a better description. It's a relevant and rich piece of work, that may suffer from a confused middle act, but ultimately delivers its message with assured confidence. Hell of a debut.

Just as a final note, this film was delayed in the UK due to similarities with the Madeleine McGann case. At the time I thought that was an over-reaction, but it is very close to the bone not least because Amanda (played by Madeline O'Brien) looks very similar.
« Last Edit: January 22, 2009, 09:32:34 PM by Jon »

Offline Dragonfire

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Re: Gone Baby Gone ****
« Reply #1 on: January 23, 2009, 03:47:26 AM »
I saw this one in the theater.  I thought it was a very good movie.  Not a fun, happy movie, but still very well done.  It deserves to seen.