(2007) dir. Ben Affleck
Adapted from a novel by Dennis Lehane, Gone Baby Gone is an earnest directorial effort by Ben Affleck, who one occasionally forgets actually holds an Oscar for screenwriting (with Matt Damon). Like Mystic River (2003) before it, also adapted from Lehane’s work, Gone Baby Gone is a crime thriller set in the working class neighborhoods of the greater Boston area. Affleck, who hails from Boston himself, is drawn very much to the material as representative of his hometown, and his portrayal of the city and its citizens has the genuine feel of someone who is trying quite hard to capture that character.
Casey Affleck, who was so good in The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (2007), really had a break-out year in 2007. He is good here, too, in his element as a Boston native, being directed by his brother. When I first caught eye of him in 200 Cigarettes (1999), he really came across as Ben Affleck’s less handsome, less charming brother. And with a career that has been heavily linked to his brother, whose star power and celebrity eclipse any major qualities he has as an actor, he seemed a bit much of a hanger-on up until now. Even getting this starring role seemed like nepotism probably. But he’s proven himself in these two films to really be quite good, probably a better actor than Ben will ever be.
And for Ben, I have to say, this was not a bad directorial start. Affleck gets good performances from his cast. I liked how he spent a lot of time with the camera on the neighborhood streets and the people there. He seemed to like to capture faces that are different from ones you see in movies like this. He spent a fair amount of time looking at the seriously obese.
The film is quite good, especially most of the way through it. But the ending, the twists of the narrative, go on a bit much and start getting less and less believable. I mean, that is sort of the character of the detective story, to solve the mystery and surprise the reader/audience.
I haven’t been to Boston, so who am I to say how well he’s captured it, but I’ll give him credit. It’s not a bad film. I think Mystic River had a better story to work with, but I like how Affleck handled the translation to film better. Maybe one of these days I will read Lehane’s books. Maybe one of these days I’ll make it to Boston.