Gone Baby Gone (2007)
Starring: Casey Affleck, Michelle Monaghan, Morgan Freeman, Ed Harris, John Ashton, Amy Ryan, Amy Madigan, Titus Welliver
Directed by: Ben Affleck
A few weeks ago, I posited that Michael Clayton was getting undue praise for being the sort of mid-budget adult thriller that has been pushed out of multiplexes by affordable genre fare or tentpole blockbuster films, regardless of its actual accomplishment as a movie. After seeing Gone Baby Gone, I’m thinking that critics may have had the right idea, they just used it on the wrong movie.
Ben Affleck‘s directorial debut is a smart, mature, engaging thriller filled with strong performances throughout the cast. It’s the sort of smart, adult fare that should be championed, but instead has largely been ignored, perhaps still part of the penance Affleck must suffer for ever appearing in a J. Lo music video. It’s too bad, since his turn behind the camera, while workmanlike in terms visual flare, is effective in telling a thrilling and entertaining detective story with a disturbing undercurrent of moral quandaries with some deeply affecting moments (particularly at the end).
Perhaps another reason the movie hasn’t been hailed as ideal mature entertainment is Casey Affleck‘s role as the star of the movie. That the younger Affleck still looks very young in his thirties is a problem the movie itself addresses with some dialogue, after which, the movie and Affleck settle into the role in adult fashion, without his character portrayed as some young upstart designed to appeal to a younger demographic. Casey Affleck stars as Patrick Kenzie, a local private investigator from the Boston neigbourhood of Dorchester. He and his partner/girlfriend Angela Gennaro (Michelle Monaghan) are hired by Bea McCready (Amy Madigan) to investigate the kidnapping of her niece, in the hope that the two local investigators will be able to glean information the local police (led by Morgan Freeman and Ed Harris) in charge of the investigation aren’t privy to.
What follows is a neo-noir thriller on the streets of Boston, with director Affleck turning to his roots to deliver a feeling of authenticity that’s heightened by the performances of Casey Affleck, Monaghan, Harris, and Amy Ryan, who plays the lost girl’s neglectful mother in a role that could garner her Best Supporting Actress consideration. The movie is a fairly solid procedural for much of the movie, until it takes a fairly dramatic turn that helps it become far more memorable than it would have been if things played out as they seemed destined to.
From there, the movie tackles some rather compelling moral quandries without resorting to any black and white answers or preachy moralizing. It’s a sophisticated approach that serves the movie well, leaving us with one final, gutwrenching image that should stay with you long after the movie is finished.