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Monday, June 9, 2008

GONE BABY GONE (2007) - Ben Affleck

Over the years, Ben Affleck’s career has taken somewhat of a bashing. After the whole ‘Bennifer’ debacle, it became hard to take the guy seriously as an actor. Aside from a worthy turn in Hollywoodland, Affleck has become somewhat of a victim of his own fame. So it’s interesting that his third trip behind the camera (after two films that never even saw a release) has garnered such positive feedback. Gone Baby Gone has been quite a success in the states, and after being delayed due to the Madeline McCann case, finally gets it’s release this side of the water.

Taking place in Boston, Massachusetts, Gone Baby Gone centres on Patrick Kenzie, a private detective who specialises in finding people who ‘fell through the cracks.’ Patrick and his girlfriend/associate, Angie are hired by Bea McCready, the sister in law of drunk and sometimes junkie Helene McCready. Helene’s 4-year old daughter Amanda has been kidnapped. Against almost everyone’s wishes, Patrick takes on the case to find Amanda. But as he investigates the kidnapping, it appears that the case may not be a simple kidnapping.

Gone Baby Gone is written by Dennis Lehane, the author of Mystic River. And as such, Gone Baby Gone feels quite like Mystic River. In both style and mood. Both stories take place in Boston, and both stories deal with quite dark subject matter. And while I found myself somewhat baffled with the love that Mystic River garnered from pretty much everyone, I also find myself a bit mystified by the universal love for Gone Baby Gone.

Gone Baby Gone is quite an impressive film from Ben Affleck. He has directed before, but this is his first big release, and he does quite well in the director’s chair. Where the film falls somewhat flat, however, is in the story department. Half of Gone Baby Gone is quite excellent. But the second half of the film takes a twist that makes the film kinda ridiculous. It’s a thriller so twists can be expected. But the twist, and the many twists after this are just a little too over the top. And the sequence of events that lead to the twist are also rather silly. It’s difficult to say much without giving anything away, but it’s all a little too tenuous and unbelievable.

The performances, on the other hand, are all excellent. Ben’s brother Casey, as Patrick Kenzie, again shows his talent after his breakthrough performance in last year’s The Assassination of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford. He’s clearly got the chops his brother seems to be without, and he carries the film well. One particular scene, set in a bar room early in the film shows the talent both brothers have and is almost terrifying. Amy Ryan, who garnered an Oscar nomination for her performance as Helene McCready is also brilliant. Her character is pretty loathsome, and Ryan really pulls this off. It’s an excellent performance. Two of my favourite actors, Ed Harris and Morgan Freeman also fill out the cast. And while they’re both on their usual brilliant top form, their characters are involved in the twists and it somewhat detracts from the overall experience.

Don’t get me wrong, Gone Baby Gone isn’t a bad film. The first hour or so of the film really is excellent. It’s like watching The Wire without the wiretaps. It’s just a damn shame the later part of the film lets the first part down so much. Excellent performances and solid direction cant save the film after it takes such a bizarre and ill-judged twist. It’s not the fault of the actors or director, but the fault of the story. Could have been so much better.



galvinator said...

Lehane sticks to his guns on the adaptation of his original stories. Not to give anything away but when you try reading any of this guy's novels you almost always feel raped at the end of them. They used say that Capra's films were romantic and a bit over-optimistic, but he'd introduce his leading characters to hell before dragging them back out for the happy ending. Lehane leaves you there! But great acting, photography... the twist .. . whatever, you hit the nail on the head there. But Ben Affleck is definitely onto something here.

Peter Slattery said...

Yeah, I'd like to see more from him. I just felt a little let down by the route the film took. It seemed too sensationalist. I'm all for downbeat and depressing endings. But endings grounded a little more in believability.