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Reviews
STAR RATINGS EXPLAINED
Unmissable 5 Stars
Excellent 4 Stars
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Tragic 1 Star

POSTER ART
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FILM DETAILS
Certificate
15
Cast

Ed Harris
Michelle Monaghan
Casey Affleck
Amy Ryan
Morgan Freeman.
Directors
Ben Affleck.
Screenwriters
Aaron Stockard
Ben Affleck.
Running Time
114 minutes

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Gone Baby Gone
Meet Ben Affleck, serious director


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Plot
When four year-old Amanda McCready disappears, detectives Patrick Kenzie (Affleck) and Angie Gennaro (Monaghan) are brought in by the child’s aunt and uncle, despite the antagonism of the Boston P. D. and the bad attitude of the child’s mother.


Review
Gone Baby Gone
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Crime novelist Dennis Lehane (who has also written episodes of The Wire) is known for the acute sense of place and mood of desolation he evokes in writing of working-class Boston, specifically the tough Dorchester area where he has lived all his life. Clint Eastwood’s masterful Mystic River captured Lehane’s world with operatic intensity. With the bleak but fascinating Gone Baby Gone - adapted, in some scenes almost verbatim, from the fourth of Lehane’s books about private investigator partners Patrick Kenzie (Casey Affleck) and Angie Gennaro (Michelle Monaghan) - director Ben Affleck has taken a thoughtfully subdued approach to what is, it seems, his favourite novel. He sustains a concrete, authentic realism in what is, after all, his own hometown setting.

It’s a major directorial debut from Affleck, successfully combining the elements of a smart, intriguing police procedural with a distinctive Bostonian flavour and the psychological sophistication and moral complexity that distinguish the very best mystery thrillers. It also marks a stunning reversal of reputation for the man, whose credibility plunged from Academy Award-winning screenwriter (for Good Will Hunting) and Hollywood young lion through ignominies like his performance in daffy Armageddon and the full-time job of celebrity coupledom, obsessively paparazzi-chronicled, of the Bennifer years. A climb back to creative respect that began with his almost grudgingly praised performance in Hollywoodland is well and truly complete. Ben Affleck is no fool, and that’s official.

The plot is labyrinthine and on close inspection depends on some perhaps improbable clumsy mistakes, coincidences and convergences (although everyone in this claustrophobic ’hood plausibly has a shared past). But Affleck and co-writer Aaron Stockard (another of the tight Beantown buddies with whom the Afflecks and Matt Damon grew up) lay it out beautifully, coherently and heartbreakingly.

Unsurprisingly, all is not what it seems and people are devious, deceiving keepers of secrets and lies. The little girl may indeed have been snatched by a known serial paedophile, who the police quickly identify and pin for the outrage. But the child’s pathetic, spotlight-basking mother, Helene (Amy Ryan), is strangely, obnoxiously unhelpful and obviously knows more than she’s saying. Oscar nominee Ryan’s brilliantly observed, breathtakingly trashy character is a foul-mouthed boozer, user and generally skanky ho. Like Monaghan’s disapproving Angie, we are tempted to feel that wherever little Amanda is, unless it’s at the bottom of a quarry, she may be better off, and that her abductor or abductors, unless he, she or they are sexually deviant, may have simply beaten social services to the child’s rescue. Then there are the child’s aunt and uncle (Amy Madigan and Titus Welliver), apparently the only people in the world who gave a damn about Amanda before her disappearance, who begin to look shifty, too.

There is no shortage of potential suspects in the local criminal confraternity either, whose grievances, grudges and possible motives for revenge add strong undercurrents of suspicion. The police in the frame - Morgan Freeman’s respected, formidable Captain Jack Doyle, who has a strong personal motive to solve the case, and his dodgier lead detectives, Cajun hard man Remy Bressant (Ed Harris giving expert intimidation and inscrutability) and bullish sidekick Nick Poole (John Ashton) - have their agendas and are clearly working at resentful, patronising odds with Patrick, even when he demonstrates to them he knows what he’s about. Or, at least, naively thinks he does.

Patrick and Angie are young, which immediately ups the stakes and personal jeopardy for them. There are running comments on Patrick’s boyishness (like baby-faced Casey, he looks much younger than he is), which exacerbates the policemen’s hostility and disdain. And while the duo of seemingly amateurish sleuths are part of the neighbourhood fabric, at ease with the roughnecks and lowlifes, compared to most of the characters who surround them they are positively innocent. They don’t carry guns, and they seem happy and comfortable enough with their unambitious business tracking down missing people who are usually debtors and deadbeat dads. Patrick lives and works by a somewhat romantic gumshoe code of honour that gives him a certainty about what is just and right. Inevitably this mentality is going to doom him to a whole lot of heart-sick, soul-searching dismay when he finds himself looking at a palette of shades of grey. It is the more intuitive Angie who foresees what an unhappy outcome to the mysterious case of Amanda could do to them, both professionally and personally. She knows they are unprepared to swim in darker waters, and she is proven horribly right when they find themselves neck-deep in duplicity, murder, sociopathic drug dealers, horrific paedophiles, enigmatic cops and puzzles that can have no satisfactory solutions.

Some way into the film a nerve-shattering plot resolution seems to have been reached, but there is more to come. Clues and telling slips of the tongue are there for the alert, but the revelations that emerge, one after another, take us to disturbing places we could never expect.

In keeping with director Affleck’s reflective tone, his chief protagonist - another superlative turn from Casey Affleck, ensuring that he will never again be thought of as just ‘the kid brother’ - maintains an outer calm quietude, visibly and vocally holding Patrick’s churning emotions in check and putting over a mostly easy, relaxed-looking demeanour while microscopically suggesting Kenzie’s sharpness and overwhelming inner turmoil. Having come into his own with his Academy Award-nominated performance in The Assassination Of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford, Affleck-the-younger proves it was no fluke in this flawless turn. Even in the seasoned company of Freeman, Harris and Madigan he commands the centre, in a drama that is compelling and demanding from start to finish. Pay attention to his opening voiceover, which is key to understanding why Patrick makes the difficult decision he has to live with at the end of the story.

Gone Baby Gone’s UK release was postponed from its original September 2007 scheduling over fears of causing offence or distress with its inevitable reminders of the Madeleine McCann case (the child actress in the film, whose name happens to be Madeline O’Brien, does resemble Maddy). But that tragedy shouldn’t be used to overshadow this completely unrelated story, superbly and thought-provokingly told.


Verdict
A superior, haunting thriller of abduction, deception and ethical dilemma with a sobering ending - a moral quandary that demands strong debate outside the cinema.


Reviewed by Angie Errigo

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Your Reviews

Average user rating for Gone Baby Gone
Empire Star Rating

Gone Baby Gone Review

Ben Affleck gives a very impressive directing debut in this terrific, gripping dramatic thriller, drawing strong performances from the excellent cast. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by the film man at 23:33, 06 December 2012 | Report This Post


Monumental Filmmaking

The final choice. Is an example of a Conservative that in my opinion really f@cked up. When the Liberal choice should of prevailed Superb cast and Performances. Truly underrated piece of work I can't imagine myself forgetting it..........not ever ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by monkeyhumour at 07:54, 27 March 2010 | Report This Post


Excellent

See it now. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Caster at 12:11, 19 August 2009 | Report This Post


Afflected by this movie

I went to the cinema to see this movie based on Empire's 4 star review, taking with me a great degree of trepidation simply because it was "a Ben Affleck film". Having been blown away by what I saw in the cinema last year, with its overtones of both the Madeline McCann and Shannen Matthews cases, I subsequently bought the DVD when it was released. Last night, the film premiered on Sky, and I watched it again. The coarse language, the near documentary feel of the underclass streets o... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by C K Dexter Haven at 09:06, 28 June 2009 | Report This Post


First-time director + poweful acting + haunting subject matter = intense experience. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by johnacide27 at 16:40, 11 March 2009 | Report This Post


First-time director + poweful acting + haunting subject matter = intense experience. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by johnacide27 at 16:40, 11 March 2009 | Report This Post


Ben Affleck has obviously struggled in recent times. Whilst MAAAATTTT DAAAAAMMMOONN was off making not one but two successful franchises, Affleck got caught in the mire of average movies, average scripts and rather ridiculous love affairs which lost him any credibility he might have earned from the writing duties on Good Will Hunting. However recently, rather then taking the big fanfare, make up the numbers average pics Affleck selected a fantastic project in Hollywoodland and reminded us the... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by gepete80 at 11:40, 23 December 2008 | Report This Post


one of best thriller of 2007 .also excellent directorial debut by. Ben Affleck ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by soulfood at 22:19, 13 November 2008 | Report This Post


RE: Good But It Gets Silly.

Most overrated movie of the year. pathetic, laughable final twist. ... More

Posted by Monkeyshaver at 15:53, 20 October 2008 | Report This Post


RE: Good But It Gets Silly.

Having watched this last night, I must say I was not dissappointed.   Casey Affleck was great in the central role, as was Amy Ryan, playing a truly repellant character. Great support from Ed Harris too, whose character is never what he seems.   ERS*p; *My only gripe would be certain gaping plotholes in the story. For instance, have any of these people never heard of child protective services?? If Amandas aunt and uncle were so concerned about her safety as revealed to... More

Posted by dark crystal at 13:57, 05 October 2008 | Report This Post


RE: Good But It Gets Silly.

Gone Baby Gone is a promising start for Ben Affleck's directorial career, but he's not the finished article.  On the plus side he portays Boston brilliantly, it was a very good move to start off in a city he knows and loves as he's able to use it as a character itself.  Affleck correctly decided not to try and glamourise the more rundown areas, these are key in setting the tone and atmosphere via the set-piece locations and sweeping aerial shots.   Affleck (Ben) als... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Vito_Andolini at 13:53, 03 October 2008 | Report This Post


Good But It Gets Silly.

I saw it last night and thought it was a bit too chatty and the ending was pretty bad. It starts out with a little girl snatched by unknown people, the police reckon it's a escaped crimmal who likes children but then everything gets twisted and the shocking realily hits the two young officers who are just trying to find this missing child. The pefomances are great, everyone from Morgan Freeman to Casey Affleck, who is a brilliant actor, shines. The problem is that many of the scenes could have b... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by joanna likes films at 12:59, 15 September 2008 | Report This Post


RE: Gone Baby Gone

An assured directorial debut from Ben Affleck, with a genuine sense of place and a suitably downbeat mood. Whilst the plot ultimately descends into contrived predictability, there are layers of moral ambiguity and questions about responsibility for one's actions that provide unexpected food for thought, helped by the edgy central performance of Casey Affleck. Worth seeing. (7/10) ... More

Posted by MOTH at 09:21, 12 September 2008 | Report This Post


RE: Gone Baby Gone

I thought this film was great.  It's the second Casey Affleck performance I've enjoyed recently, the first being his Robert Ford in The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, the last half hour of which I thought was astonishing.    Gone Baby Gone really left me thinking - my gut reaction (what I would have done in the moral quandary they left us with) I reversed after a few minutes consideration.  Very interesting to debate - with those who have s... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by jackmansgirl at 23:36, 23 August 2008 | Report This Post


RE: Good but not great

I thought it was complete bobbins, it's the year 2008 and we shouldn't still have pathetically weak female characters like Angie. She contributes nothing and spend the whole film being rescused, protected and defended yet we're supposed to believe she's a hard nosed private detective. Casey Affleck was alright but the whole thing felt overlong, the pacing was terrible and it should have ended about 20minutes before it did. Overhyped and disappointing. ... More

Posted by doubleshiny at 15:05, 23 August 2008 | Report This Post


RE: Gone but not forgotten

Finally caught this last night.  Loved it.  It was a really hard watch, but certainly worth it.  Great acting from Casey Affleck and it certainly means I'll mock Ben Affleck a little less than I once did.    Certainly not a cheery film though, Jesus, I had to watch Schindlers List to lighten the mood......   4/5 ... More

Posted by porntrooper at 16:00, 04 August 2008 | Report This Post


Gone but not forgotten

Loved this movie. Excellent all the way around. Both Afflecks were robbed of Oscars as was Amy Ruan. Sobering morality tale of good people gone bad for all the right reasons. SEE IT NOW!!!! ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by lynnshep at 00:40, 03 July 2008 | Report This Post


A superb, thought provoking film with first rate performances by all, but particularly Casey Affleck. The Empire reviewer's verdict sums it up perfectly. Just a shame that I saw it with someone incapable of discussing it outside of the cinema!!! ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by timbailey60 at 22:35, 18 June 2008 | Report This Post


RE: Gone Baby Gone

poilers are in invisiotext, so you can read safe that the film will remain unspoilt...nbsp; een a while since I saw a well-crafted, adult thriller with real characters, solid acting, and a story that, while it may stretch the fabric of credibility, is told within a credible framework that makes holds it together through twist and turn. by Goner as directorial debuts go, is excellent. It depicts a world that is microcosmic - a small Boston neighbourhood that is insular in itself, but that is bur... More

Posted by homersimpson_esq at 13:51, 16 June 2008 | Report This Post


Gone Baby Gone

Promising ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by qualidad at 10:41, 16 June 2008 | Report This Post


RE: Good but not great

I really enjoyed this film. Who would have thought that Ben Affleck could produce something as good as this, based on the fact he's done nothing but rubbish in recent time(Hollywoodland excluded). A good thriller with some excellent performances in particular Casey Affleck, who has really stepped up his game over the last year or so from bit part actor(e.g Oceans Series) to leading man. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by no1psh at 14:53, 14 June 2008 | Report This Post


RE: Good but not great

SPOILERS     An excellent movie, with great performances all round.  I would have preferred it if all of the loose ends hadn't been tied up, as that is what generally happens in cases such as these, and the "twist" was somewhat hard to believe. The final scenes however certainly get you thinking. Easily one of the best films of the year. 4 stars ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by skeletonjack at 09:04, 13 June 2008 | Report This Post


RE: Good but not great

L: thedrin Very very good. Minor Spoilers: The closing line of the film is probably the most gut wrenching I'll hear this year and is the only part of the film that I'd consider a twist (as in completely unexpected - uncertain charachter motivations were a given from the start). sp; Damn right Drin , that last line was so "kick in the nuts" , although it was delivered in such a subtle way i can see many people who see the movie missing it . Amy Ryan was the standout... More

Posted by Beno at 09:07, 12 June 2008 | Report This Post


RE: Gone Baby Gone

didn't do it for me. i thought it was rather poor, badly written script with cliches throughout. I thought the characters were sketchy, Afleck's acting seemed to drag the movie along by it's heels. I just didn't really believe the whole show. mind you, might be because i just finished season four of The Wire.... ... More

Posted by jrewing1000 at 00:13, 12 June 2008 | Report This Post


RE:

I have been looking forward to Gone Baby Gone for some time and I was particularly critical of the decision to delay the film in the wake of the hype surrounding the Madeline McCann case in the UK.  However, in hindsight, I believe that it was the right decision for the filmmakers to take as it allows the film to stand on its own merit rather than be swept up in the red-top hype.   This is a dark brooding part-thriller, part-police procedural that follows Casey Affleck's private d... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Groovy Mule at 13:46, 11 June 2008 | Report This Post


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