Thursday, October 25, 2007

Review: Gone Baby Gone

A Miramax release 2007

Directed by Ben Affleck

Writing credits:
Ben Affleck (screenplay)
Aaron Stockard (screenplay)
Dennis Lehane (novel)

Two Boston area detectives investigate a little girl's kidnapping, which ultimately turns into a crisis both professionally and personally.

Ben Affleck's directorial debut is by no means memorable, but it is an effective, well made film that shows promise from the former Academy Award winner. Affleck handles his camera with an assured confidence, and while the script lapses at points, the picture drives towards some interesting ideas on moral ambiguity and making firm decisions.

Where the film succeeds most is in its casting. Affleck manages to draw some intense performances from his actors, particularly his brother, Casey, who despite wire thin, boyish looks, takes charge of the screen. Likewise, Amy Ryan completely captures the emotion of a cracked-out mother searching for her child. Ed Harris gets a bit hammy as a police detective on the case, and Morgan Freeman sort of sleepwalks throughout, but neither feel out of place.

The script has some dips, particularly a twist towards the end that doesn't sit well, but at the same time feels necessary, mostly because it secures the main theme of morality. Having kids clearly effected Affleck, and he's not afraid to probe what it means to be a parent, to do what's right for a child. The Boston location adds depth to the concept of community, and makes the film feel much more real. The final shot of Casey sitting on a couch with the newly returned child is both depressing and poignant.

Overall, Gone Baby Gone isn't a perfect film, but Affleck managed to wring a lot of interesting ideas out of the material, and handled the picture with confidence. It scares me to say it, but I'm looking forward to his next picture. Worth a gander.