Saturday, January 14, 2017

Movie Review: GONE BABY GONE

Welcome to another mini-series of reviews highlighting the works of one of today’s most talented actor/directors: Ben Affleck. This series will review each of his four directorial feature films. This first entry is for his 2007 feature directorial debut GONE BABY GONE.

Gone Baby Gone is the 2007 directorial debut for Ben Affleck. The film centers around a missing child investigation where a terrified mother reaches out in desperation for additional help finding her child and the numerous events that occur over the course of that investigation. The film stars Casey Affleck, Michelle Monaghan, Morgan Freeman, Ed Harris, and Amy Ryan.

I really enjoyed this film. I think that it is superbly written by Ben Affleck and Aaron Stockard and felt like a traditional noir film but in a modern Boston setting. I was extremely impressed with how committed this film was to being the film that it was. It was unapologetically a noir and I loved that about this. You got a whole bunch of character interviews. You got a great mystery with lots of intrigue. You got just a fundamentally compelling mystery that made you invested in what was going on.

There are three fundamental strengths to this film: the direction, the writing, and the performances. When a film hits all of these notes it’s pretty much bound to work as a film. Ben Affleck really nails a sense of realism to this story. Living in the Boston area I really felt the sense of place in this movie. This wasn’t a story that was quintessentially Bostonian in any particular way, but Affleck made that his setting and committed to it fully. That commitment really made it work. In addition to the directorial commitment, Ben Affleck and Aaron Stockard’s writing work produce quick and functional dialogue that keep you hanging on every word every character says, an essential in a noir which makes this film effective.

The last thing, the performances, are really highlighted by the other Affleck (Casey). Casey Affleck’s performance in this film is raw and layered in the best ways. He really makes the emotional center of this story work and is only highlighted by excellent supporting roles. I think this film is special for being traditional but for also giving you some deep tough questions to think about (one in particular I have been dwelling on ever since I saw it).

Gone Baby Gone is extremely good, but not perfect. I think it slows down a bit too much at times. It has a few too many characters that spreads the whole thing too thin. Further, it also had moments where I kind of lost investment in the central conflict as I wound up paying more attention to the characters than the issues at hand.

Overall, Gone Baby Gone is a refreshing and powerful noir for the modern age. I think this showed off the immense talent Ben Affleck has behind the camera and in the writing room which paid off in making this film great.

Ryan’s Score: 8.5/10

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