Gone Baby, Gone
Now Showing at: most major theaters.
Review by: Larry Thomas
Once upon a time in Boston, two friends pooled their talents, experiences, and moxie, to write and sell a script that became the hit film Good Will Hunting. Those guys were Matt Damon and Ben Affleck, and even though they won Oscars for script writing, each has made their way in Hollywood as actors. While Damon's career has soared over the years, particularly with the Bourne series, and several great character parts, Affleck's has run into hard times. Bad role choices, both on screen and in his personal life, took their toll on the perceptions about his abilities.
Last year, Ben Affleck garnered much critical acclaim in the film Hollywoodland, in which he played actor George Reeves, TV's original Superman. While the film had its share of flaws, Affleck gave a standout performance. This year, instead of trying to come up with an equally compelling performance, he's gone behind the camera, directing Gone Baby, Gone. It's a tense Boston police thriller from the writer of Mystic River, that never flinches in showing the ugly side of life in America today.
A young girl goes missing. Her mother, in a terrific performance from Amy Ryan, is a drug-addled boozer who should have avoided reproduction. The girl's aunt and uncle are at the forefront of the hunt for the missing child. The Boston police are not providing answers to their satisfaction, so they hire a neighborhood private detective to work alongside the police, in hopes that his local connection will bring answers and a resolution more quickly.
Working in his own backyard, Ben Affleck has an eye for the squalor of the low-rent district of Boston, as well as an ear for the local lingo and accents. He wisely cast his brother Casey in the lead as the young private eye who reluctantly takes the case. His partner and lover, Michelle Monahan, is opposed to getting involved, but he talks her in to it. The police captain is Morgan Freeman, who once again commands the screen when he's on. Ditto the electric Ed Harris as the detective in charge of the case, and John Ashton as his partner.
This is Casey Affleck's second major film this fall, the other being in The Assasination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, as Robert Ford. Between Jesse James and Gone Baby, Gone, Ben's younger brother may very well be in line for his own Oscar nomination.
While Gone Baby, Gone is, in many places, hard to take and has a couple of scenes where you may want to shut your eyes, it's still a film with a lot of heart and energy. While there's nothing pleasant about the location, the coarse dialogue, the brutal violence, and some of the most unsympathetic characters you may ever encounter on a movie screen, the story is woven so tightly that it's completely involving. And as in any good mystery film, many people are not what they seem.
Adding up the first-class direction, writing, acting, and every other cinematic craft involved, Gone Baby, Gone turns out to be one of the best pictures of the year.