“Gone Baby Gone” is certainly not a new movie (2007), neither was last night the first time I had seen it. No, I have seen it at least five times by now, and I know I will see it again in a couple of months. There are things in the movie that keep dragging me back.
My introduction to Ben Affleck was in Daredevil, and as a result I had him clubbed in that category of actors who are good-looking, but don’t have to be taken too seriously; say Ryan Reynolds or Josh Lucas for example. That perception changed after I came across Gone Baby Gone, his directorial debut.
The movie is a crime-thriller, and is based on the novel by Dennis Lehane. Set in a depressing blue-collar neighborhood of Boston, the story is one that is sure to break hearts. Amanda McCready, a beautiful 4-year-old blond girl is kidnapped from her home. Her mother Helene is a cocaine-sniffing, alcoholic mess who you wouldn’t trust for taking your dog on a walk. After the Boston Police turn up with nothing in three days after the kidnapping, Amanda’s aunt Bea hires a local private-detective couple to probe people in the neighborhood who might not have been forthcoming with the cops. The rest of the story is a terrifying mix of sub-plots, twists, betrayals, corruption and moral dilemma. It’s an edgy, dark story, which never lets you off the hook till the closing credits. It also goes on to stay in your mind for quite a long time, and asks you disturbing questions that you will struggle to answer.
The director has kept the movie in a gritty, realistic setting, relying solely on the story and the performances of the actors to carry it through instead of any fancy effects or sequences. It is genuinely gratifying to see that he has made brilliant choices for both. The detective couple of Patrick Kenzie and Angie Gennaro is played by Ben’s brother Casey Affleck and a totally de-glam but still beautiful Michelle Monaghan. Neither the two of them nor the director make the slightest effort to assign any glamour to their characters or to keep the camera on them a second more than is strictly necessary. The result is two real people with real life problems and fears, uncertainties and complications, who make the narrative infinitely more convincing.
The supporting characters are just about as brilliant. While it is true that someone of Morgan Freeman’s caliber has been seriously under-utilized in the role of Jack Doyle, Boston PD‘s head of missing-children division, I cannot honestly think of anyone else who could have done more justice to that pivotal character in the story. Equally compelling is Ed Harris as the tough, cynical detective Remy Bressant and Titus Welliver as Helene’s brother Lionel. The best performer in the movie, in my opinion, is easily Amy Ryan as Helene, Amanda’s mother. She reluctantly admits to numerous involvements with petty crime and nonchalantly makes up pathetic excuses for acts of negligence of her daughter, and makes you make you hate her more and more with every passing minute of the movie, as well as making you silently sympathise with Amanda for being born to such an undeserving mother.
It’s primarily her performance as the social disaster of a mother, along with the choices made and questions faced by the other characters, that takes this thriller to a whole new level. Throughout the narrative you will find the lines between good and bad, right and wrong blurred to an extent that they become unrecognizable. Even at the end, wisely, the director doesn’t preach or try to convince you of a certain version of justice. He leaves you with more doubts than he started the movie with, he makes you question every act from a moral and ethical perspective and at the very end, brilliantly asks that eternal question: whether two wrongs can make a right.
If you have a feeling that I have told you too little of the story, you would be right. And I have done so both in the knowledge that you deserve to see the director’s version of it rather than read my lame-duck version of it, and also in the hope that I might just tempt you into seeing the movie, in case you haven’t seen it already. I cannot assure you that you will not regret it, for it might disturb you more than you want a movie to. However, I can certainly assure you that you would not consider it a waste of your time.
A good day to you all.
- “Gone Baby Gone” Review: Maybe After the ‘Count Your Blessings’ and ‘Watch Your Languages’, You’re Just Like Everyone Else (overanalyzethat.wordpress.com)
- Argo Dir. Ben Affleck (mostlycinema.com)