Gone Baby Gone

Gone Baby Gone


Reviewed by: The Exile

Despite strong turns in last year’s Hollywoodland and 2002’s Changing Lanes, Ben Affleck has never quite caught fire as an actor. While best pal and fellow Oscar-winner Matt Damon has soared on the shoulders of Jason Bourne, Affleck has limped through dreck like the aptly-named Paycheck with head bowed and hand out. Engaging in a brief frottage - both personal and professional - with Jennifer Lopez did not help.

That said, Affleck’s sideways slide into directing is a very smart move. In Gone Baby Gone, he transposes Dennis Lehane’s searing novel about child abduction to the big screen without sacrificing either its dark mood or moral ambivalence. The fourth book in a series about a pair of South Boston private eyes, Gone Baby Gone is remarkable not just for its hot-button subject but its conflicted tone; by the end, you’ll be every bit as conflicted.

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That tone is carefully preserved by Affleck and his co-screenwriter Aaron Stockard, not least in the voice of Patrick Kenzie (Casey Affleck), a private investigator who grew up in the rough Dorchester neighborhood where he still lives. “I find the people who started in the cracks and then fell through,” he says in voiceover at the beginning of the film, an educated man who started in those very same cracks. Along with his business and romantic partner Angie Genarro (Michelle Monaghan), Patrick has become skillful at tracking down those whom the cops ignore.

The disappearance of four-year-old Amanda McCready is not Patrick’s kind of case: too much media, too many cops and too great a chance of a grisly outcome. But when Amanda’s distraught aunt and uncle (Amy Madigan and Titus Welliver) come begging, he reluctantly accepts; and as he and Angie delve deeper into the case - and into the life of Amanda’s drug-and-booze-happy mother (the brilliant Amy Ryan) - the clues come to light with suspicious ease. So when, just one hour into the movie, the little girl’s disappearance seems to be solved, Patrick is haunted by facts that don’t add up. Against his better judgment, he keeps looking.

Filmed in the streets and bars of Boston, Gone Baby Gone has a dense authenticity which, like the Brooklyn of We Own the Night, crackles with the grit of decades of fossil fuels and crumbling concrete. Whether capturing gnarled hands wrapped around shot glasses or junk food littering a family table, Braveheart cinematographer John Toll is astoundingly particular. His images anchor a story that seems at times frustratingly elusive.

As for Affleck Jr, he may have benefited from nepotism but he earns this role every time he opens his mouth. Born and raised in Falmouth, Massachusetts, he slips into the accent with ease; though boyish and disturbingly slight for such a violent movie, he gives Patrick flashes of foul-mouthed temper that catch his opponents off-guard. And while Monaghan’s work is less showy - and her character less defined - she nevertheless uses her marvelous eyes to convey emotions that aren’t even in the book, never mind the script.

Filled with blurred motives and slippery characters, Gone Baby Gone doesn’t just ask what it means to do the right thing: it wonders if, in certain situations, we even know what the right thing is.

Reviewed on: 25 Oct 2007
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A private investigator looks for a missing four-year-old.
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Read more Gone Baby Gone reviews:

Maryam Ghorbankarimi ****

Director: Ben Affleck

Writer: Ben Affleck, Aaron Stockard, Dennis Lehane

Starring: Casey Affleck, Michelle Monaghan, Morgan Freeman, Ed Harris, John Ashton, Amy Ryan, Amy Madigan, Titus Welliver, Michael K Williams, Edi Gathegi, Mark Margolis

Year: 2007

Runtime: 114 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: US


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