Crime movies have taken place in a lot of cities. When you get down to it, though, there’s mainly a few that are most often re-visited. Boston seems to be the main one. It’s hard to explain, but everything comes off so much deeper and real. From the characters, to something as simple as the atmosphere. Gone Baby Gone is based from one of Dennis Lehane novels. Another one of his novels had already hit the big screen, Mystic River. Clint Eastwood directed. The bar was set extremely high in his suburb adaptation of Lehane’s compelling story. Which top tier director takes on this? That would be Ben Affleck, in his directional debut. His acting cannot even be compared to Clint Eastwood, but now he tries to see how good he can be behind the camera. He exceeds all expectations tenfold.
Two local private eyes and lovers, are hired by the aunt and uncle (Amy Madigan and Titus Welliver) of missing neighborhood girl, Amanda McCready. The Boston police, missing children unit leader Jack Doyle (Morgan Freeman), his two detectives, Remy Bressant (Ed Harris) and Nick Poole (John Ashton), are already on the case. Amanda’s family hired Patrick Kenzie (Casey Affleck) and Angie Genarro (Michelle Monaghan) mainly to help track down leads from some locals who refuse to speak with police officers. During their investigation, they soon discover many layers of secrecy and corruption. This includes Amanda’s drug addicted mother Helene (Amy Ryan). She seems to know more than she’s led the cops to believe. The deeper Patrick digs into this entire investigation, he finds himself at the point where it is extremely difficult to distinguish right from wrong.
Ben Affleck would have gotten so much hate if this movie had failed, I mean he even cast his little brother in the lead role. Well luckily, this movie succeeds on numerous levels. Affleck has gotten a ton of hate throughout his entire career. He has deserved a great deal of that, remember when he did Gigi. I still get nightmares just thinking about that horrible experience (horrible is still putting it lightly). Gone Baby Gone gave his career a needed boost in the right direction. The guy can direct. You can tell that he has his own understanding of his hometown. This was shot on location. Local people with zero acting experience were actually cast in most of the smaller roles, and extras. Maintains a great tone giving it a real gritty feel.
2007 was a break out year for Casey Affleck. He came out in The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, and then did this one. Little Affleck gives a stupendous performance; he subtly captures his characters conflicting feelings. I whole heartily bought his struggle. Morgan Freeman is great as usual. The way he conveys his lines make for some wonderful moments. Ed Harris brings his A-game too. A certain scene was just flawless, seen it a few times by itself. I want to refrain when saying weak link, but Michelle Monaghan isn’t given as much to do. So, that stops her from shining super bright. It’s extremely difficult to point to a standout in a fantastic cast, but Amy Ryan could vouch for that. She did wonders with the character. Ryan gives a strong emotional and complex performance. Didn’t quite know what to make of Helene. Could never pin-point what she was all about – credit the acting for adding dimensions.
Mystery stories often falter in keeping big reveals secret for long. Some of the clues are literally right in front of you when they happen, but there is no indication that they are even there. The characters don’t look up dramatically and give it away. There are no close ups that just tell us a clue popped up, I really liked how they handled that aspect. I give props to the screenplay for concealing hidden elements to the story when you weren’t ready for them. When they appear, though, everything comes into place. Never did I think any part was farfetched. The story overall is masterfully paced. Nothing is spoon fed to you. Many dark and interesting twists and turns take place.
When you get down to it, Gone Baby Gone is about the characters, and the choices they have to make. Also, what kind of impact those decisions have and how it affects the person making them over time. Dealing with the difference between right and wrong is the main question brought up. Yeah, it’s a message that most people probably think they’ve got down, but the subject is taken deep. How muddled is that fine line between good and bad? Is it worth doing a little evil for a greater cause? Is there really right and wrong, or does it depended on the situation or person? As you might have guessed already, this is defiantly very dark, and the thing that always help set that dark mood, or any mood for that matter, is the score. Defiantly fit the atmosphere. Ending credit song was a perfect choice while the audience is mulling everything over.
Obviously, comparisons to Mystic River are inevitable. What Mystic River did, I feel Gone Baby Gone took to a new level. This film is about a society who has lost the importance of innocence and the beauty of life, it focuses on the beauty of children, but still leaves you somewhat cold by the end. Plainly and simply, a masterpiece.