I was never a big fan of Ben Affleck but I am wowed by his rookie directorial effort in Gone Baby Gone! It’s been a long time since we last caught a dramatic thriller that had real entertainment value & driven by powerful performances, authentic scenes and an interesting plot. No fancy car chase scenes, no overflowing blood and gore & no glamourised sets, to capture the audience. Gone Baby Gone hit a home run on this.
Based on the Dennis Lehane novel, the movie is about two Boston area detectives investigating a little girl’s kidnapping, which ultimately turns into a crisis both professionally and personally.
The movie starts off by showing a media frenzy covering the case of a missing 4 year old girl, Amanda McCready.
The local police efforts, headed by Captain Jack Doyle (Morgan Freeman) had already gone into the third day of investigations and still, no leads. The girl was kidnapped from her bedroom whilst her mum was over at her girlfriend’s home across the road watching ‘Wife Swap’. The apartment that she was kidnapped from was being shared by the mom, Helene McCready (Amy Ryan), her brother Lionel (Titus Welliver) and his wife Beatrice -Bea (Amy Madigan).
Now Bea, Amanda’s aunt, who distrusts Helene & her drug ridden lifestyle, takes it upon herself to hire a pair of private investigators Patrick Kenzie (Casey Affleck) & Angie Genaro (Michelle Monaghan) to ‘augment’ the investigation process. She wanted someone who could talk to ‘people who wouldn’t open up to the police’ i.e. drug dealers, bar tenders, addicts, pedophiles etc.
In the course of Kenzie and Genaro’s investigation, it puts them in the path of Detectives Remy Bressant (Ed Harris) and Nick Poole (John Ashton). When the P.I.’s solve the case 2 months later, the tagline packs the movie’s punch beautifully “Everyone wants the truth…… Until they find it”
I shouldn’t add anymore to the storyline. The little girl’s predicament appears to be a drug related kidnapping ….. but then as you sit through the movie, the layers peel off and you are presented with a view that things are not as simple as you think. One thing for sure, the movie is anything but obvious … The good guys appears to be bad. The bad guys appear to be good …. or so you’re made to think. That’s what makes it intriguing. The truth really does not unfold itself until the very end. By the time it hits you, I fear it will cause you to leave the cinema with a set of questions. Moral questions.
Do two wrongs make a right?
Where & when do we draw the line between right and wrong?
Does living by your principles make you a winner in life?
I must say Affleck seems more adept at directing than acting. He was able to pull really strong performances from his cast.
Amy Ryan shone in her role as the missing girl’s mom Helene & she was nominated for Best Supporting Actress at the 80th Academy Awards, the Golden Globe & SAG awards too. She carried the role of a negligent drug addict mom so convincingly that you would readily lable her (forgive the bigoted expression) ‘white trash’…….
Casey Affleck, Ben’s brother took on the role of Patrick Kenzie, the Private Investigator. Casey too, pulled off Kenzie’s role beautifully. Kenzie is a seemingly unassuming but streetwise P.I. who turns out to be a man of principle intent on putting things right. He goes through lengths to protect what is precious to him as evidenced in his threat to kill drug dealer ‘Cheese’ if he ever disrespected his girlfriend partner again. It is through Casey’s portrayal of Kenzie’s role that forms the backbone of the moral dilemma inherent in the movie.
Affleck was also able to draw a powerful performance from Ed Harris who prior to this, always seem to be given nondescript roles despite his strong acting skills. I’ve never seen him looking so good (Hmm..is that a new hair job, Ed?). Morgan Freeman was his usual stellar self but really at the end of the day, kudos still goes back to Ben Affleck.
Ben not only directed the movie, he also co-wrote the screenplay. The dialogue in the movie was heavily laden with profanities but what the H*%%, it was an authentic depiction of tough neighbourhoods like Dorchester which forms a big part of Boston in the movie. He filled the movie with characters that you would cringe to look at ….. complete with pot bellies & tattoos. The cinematography took us through graffitied neighbourhoods, run down townhouses, lacklustre shopfronts, dark and drab eateries & seedy pubs. All so dark, but all so real. It was totally unpretentious.
I now have a renewed respect for Ben. I am really looking forward to him producing more gems like this in the future. …… as his future is certainly not Gone Baby Gone. Kudos!
P.S. If you’re planning to watch the movie in the cinema circuit, well be warned – the dialogues are heavily chopped up as the Malaysian censorship board seems to think that the audience is not matured enough to listen to profanities uttered in all its prime and glory. This has no doubt fractured the conversations & robbed the movie of some authenticity. Catch it on the DVD if you don’t want to be cursing and swearing in the cinema in compensation for the rudely censored expletives ………
P.P.S. If you notice, the circumstance’s of Amanda’s disappearance in the movie is similar to that of real life 4 year old English girl Madeleine McCann’s on May 3, 2007 while the family was on holiday in Portugal. As a gesture of deference to the family, the movie’s UK release date is being pushed to Apr 18, 2008, much later than the US release in Oct 2007.