Boston has become a setting for many of the recent crime dramas that have graced the big screen. In 2003, Clint Eastwood delivered “Mystic River,” a powerful film starring Sean Penn, Kevin Bacon and Tim Robbins about the murder of a young girl in Boston. Last year, Martin Scorsese brought us “The Departed,” which took a look at the crime underworld in Boston. Now, Ben Affleck, in his directorial debut, delivers “Gone Baby Gone,” yet another crime thriller set on the working class streets of Boston. Based on the novel by Dennis Lehane, who also wrote “Mystic River,” “Gone Baby Gone” is a fantastic film that is both well directed and well acted. For his directorial debut, Affleck has chosen wisely. While he has not also picked the greatest acting roles (see “Gigli,” “Jersey Girl,” and “Reindeer Games”) and may not win an Oscar for Best Actor, Affleck shines behind the camera, delivering a powerful film. While it has some flaws, such as a plot that delves a bit too much into procedure in the early stages of the film, it is safe to say that “Gone Baby Gone” is the best film to come out in 2007 thus far.
The film takes place in Boston, Massachusetts. Affleck opens the film with the protagonist, Patrick Kenzie (Casey Affleck), giving an overview of the neighborhood. Afterwards, we learn that a young girl has been abducted from her home. The aunt of the abducted girl hires Kenzie and his girlfriend/partner Angie (Michelle Monaghan) to assist the police chief (Morgan Freeman) in finding her niece by talking to the neighborhood people, who are reluctant to talk to the police. Assisting them is Officer Remy (Ed Harris), who has a close relationship with the police chief and sees it as his mission to protect children. However, something goes wrong with the investigation, calling many things into question. As Kenzie begins to replay the case inside his head, he realizes that there is more to it than meets the eye.
For the third time, audiences have been shown a Boston that seems very foreboding. Like “The Departed” and “Mystic River,” “Gone Baby Gone” focuses on the negativities of the city and paints this dark picture of a place in the dregs of society. Many of the characters introduced are societal rejects, such as cocaine dealers, drug users, and child molesters.
Even some of the individuals who should represent the respectable people of society are given dark pasts, such as Harris’s Officer Remy, who we learn has done such things as plant heroin on an abusive father. While he claims this was done to protect the child, and our society loves someone who is a champion for children, it no doubt adds to the image that Affleck is trying to display, that of a place so laden with unsavory character that even the good guys can be bad.
Does this diminish the quality of the film? Not in the slightest. Without this, the film would be void of the depth that makes it so interesting. What Affleck does is present these rich characters that have so many levels that they are not fully understood until the very end. Unlike other crime movies, which rely on the same formula many times, “Gone Baby Gone” presents us with characters who are more than they appear.
As the savior of a society with moral questions, Casey Affleck proves his acting range and gives another Oscar-worthy performance this year, the first being in “The Assassination of Jesse James by the coward Robert Crawford.” He is quiet and smart, proving that he is more than Ben Affleck’s kid brother. While he seems to be too young- looking to be as aggressive as he is, he manages to pull it off and gives one of the best performances of the year.
The supporting cast of Ed Harris, Morgan Freeman, and Michelle Monaghan must also be praised. Each shines and adds different levels to an already rich story. Freeman, as usual, gives a spellbinding, albeit muted, performance as the Police Chief Jim Doyle. Harris is powerful when he takes the screen, at times stealing the show from the other actors. Monaghan is also brilliant, and provides a moral center for Affleck’s character.
For probably only the third time in his career, Ben Affleck should be praised. His camera work is brilliant and he paints this beautiful picture of working class Boston. While he spends a bit too much time on the procedural elements of the case in the beginning of the film, he nonetheless succeeds in capturing the emotional turmoil of child abduction. There are moments when he falls into directorial pitfalls, such as the use of the now infamous “shaky camera” effect during a nighttime chase scene, but that does not diminish from the brilliant work that he displays. In particular, the ending shot of the film is haunting and will stay with an audience for days. He knows how to write and direct, so that should be what he sticks to. Ben Affleck has proven himself with this film.
“Gone Baby Gone” is without question the best film of 2007 thus far. It is powerful and emotional, as well as well acted and directed. Praise should be given to the Affleck brothers, as well as the supporting cast. This the only truly must-see film that has come out this.
Chris Bashore is a fourth-year student majoring in political science. He can be reached at CB588901@wcupa.edu.