Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Gone Baby Gone (2007)

* * * *

Ben Affleck was brilliant in choosing the source material for his first turn as a director. Gone Baby Gone is an adaptation (screenplay also by Affleck) of a novel written by Dennis Lehane, whose last novel to be adapted for the screen was Mystic River. Affleck stayed close to home in more than one sense; the film is shot in Boston and Affleck cast his brother Casey as Patrick Kenzie in the lead role. Kenzie and partner Angie Gennaro, played by Michelle Monaghan, are two private detectives asked to investigate the case of a missing girl. As the investigation ensues it becomes clear that there is more to the story than a simple missing girl or kidnapping. The child's mother, played by Amy Ryan, is found to be a drug-user, accessory to drug-deals, and neglectful mother with strange family members, and the private investigation begins to conflict with the police investigation headed by Captain Jack Doyle, played by Morgan Freeman. Casey Affleck delivers a surprisingly powerful performance, showing he is capable of starring the show, at least with his brother in the director's chair. Supporting roles by Freeman and crime-movie veteran Ed Harris playing a cop for what has to be double-digit times are what can be expected; competent and adequate. Amy Ryan, nominated for an Oscar for her performance, effectively plays the troubled mother in what is probably the most believable and most bizarre character in the film. Gone Baby Gone comes extremely close to falling into average-movie traps with some painfully cheesy lines, scenes, and performances. The character played by Michelle Monaghan is a combination of bland acting and completely forgettable writing. But what makes the film a success is the unexpected transformation from a simple spider-web plot suspense-thriller to a contemplation on personal values, morality, and humanity. All of the twists of a mystery, surprises of a thriller, and relevance of a drama are there, and the impact of the conclusion will just be icing on the cake for most. Gone Baby Gone rewards the viewer for having attention to detail and will leave many with something to talk about for a few days after. As Affleck's first film as director, it will be interesting to see what comes next.

Good for: mystery fans, a date, philosophers

Bad for: the easily confused, those bothered by violence

The Gallery
The Economist: * * * *
The Surfer: * * * *

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