Saturday, August 23, 2008

Gone Baby Gone

Gone Baby Gone (Ben Affleck, 2007) [6]

A lot of praise has gone onto Affleck the director since probably most critics didn't see anything in his persona that would have made it possible for him to make a film that was any good. While I happen to agree that Gone Baby Gone is above average, it's never really does anything to raise it above a standard crime thriller. Its greatest attribute is its sense of propriety, that Affleck nails down the lower-class Boston existence of the characters in the film, and imbues the film with the knowledge of the city the same that Dennis Lehane's novel does. Even so, I find the film's plot straining credibility at times and Affleck never handles the material with anymore than a middle-of-the-road style. Casey Affleck and Bridget Monahan play a pair of P.I.s hired to investigate a missing child case. Affleck's character is one of these guys who has risen out of his rough neighborhood only to have to be brought back into it only to have it become an all-consuming obsession. The story weaves itself through a number of twists and turns, the standard operating procedure of any crime thriller (I won't give anything more away for those who haven't seen it). The plot does its job dutifully but its two other elements in the story that are somewhat secondary that have the most interest for me. The film has moments where it captures the media feeding frenzy a story like a missing child creates. Affleck shows the viewer how the media chews up and spits out the people involved in events that are much more beyond quick sound bites. The other interesting question is the moral one raised by the film's ending. The film asks what should the role of parenting be and when should the welfare of a child overrule the bonds of family. Amy Ryan's character (overrated by the way) as the drug-addicted mother is present to play this friction point. The answer is left unanswered as it should be but it holds much more interest to me than any plot twists involving cops and drug dealers. If Affleck had concentrated on these themes just a bit more, this had the potential to be a really good film. Even in its current form, it's a fairly good, safe picture.

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