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.
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.
i have to agree that this film has been overhyped by critics who in blockbuster season fall like ravenous hounds on anything with substance gone baby gone its too slow no sense of urgency which you think would be there in a child abduction case c affleck is an unconvincing tough guy the moral ambiguites are interesting but the plot is confusing this is no mystic river i really wanted to like this film more than i did sor... More
I only saw it today, so I'm still mulling it over, but I think it'll be a film that stays with me for quite a while. A superbly made film with excellent performances -there is no excess; everything has its place and purpose. The ending is haunting and a punch to the gut at the same time. ... More
Gone Baby Gone's plot is eerily familiar, as a small child goes missing from a bed during the night while her mother is throwing back booze in the local bar. A media circus ensues, as the child's Aunt and Uncle go to small-time private investigator Patrick Kenzie (Affleck) and ask him to assist in the investigation, because of his local knowledge. As he becomes more involved with the investigative process, he begins to uncover hidden truths that will stay with him for the rest of his life. Gone ... More
Just returned from a screening of this and I have to say I was blown away. Casey Affleck is truly superb, as are most of the cast in fact, I thought the first two acts were extremely well done, major credit to Ben Affleck here as the plot just races along and provides some of the most tense scenes I've seen this year. At first I felt the final act was unnecessary, but I was wrong, the final scenes make for compelling and harrowing viewing. ... More
Saw it today. A movie unafraid to ask difficult questions, but one with the intelligence to not suggest glib, audience-friendly answers. Uniformly superb cast, delivering believable dialogue...The only possible criticism would be that the plot is a little clumsy in places. But all-in-all an intelligent, superior thriller. ... More
A powerfull film that asks difficult moral questions. Questions, that there are no right or wrong answers to. Isn't that excactly what ambitious cinema should do? Make the viewer ponder the film long after having seen it?
From technical point of view, the direction is brilliant. I've never been to Boston but felt like the film was looking very deep into the city and its inhabitants. It felt like a real, breathing world with Ben Affleck showing a great eye for the faces extras-wise, but the ca... More
Watched this Friday night. I found the film very good. The performances were all great and the direction was fantastic. However what let it down for me was the overall plot. It seemed quite unbelieveable at times and i found certain parts of the movie unrealistic.
I thought Casey Affleck was very good but there was something his character i found unconvincing. Scenes were he was talking shit to the so called 'bad guys' just didnt seem natural. In the end he was a private detective wi... More
Watched it tonight.. very good film, very bleak, dirty, and unrelenting. The plot seemed abit contrived, but maybe Ben Affleck thought to spare us the train of thought to avoid affecting the pace of the film. CA I thought was terrific, and he is becoming one of my favourate actors. The film doesn't give easy answers, and leaves us wondering, what is right, and what is wrong. Very grey, yet very provoking, a great debute in my opinion. ... More
Very very good.
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).
Very good film, uses the standard thriller format to explore our notions of what's right and wrong, what's good and bad. The twists are not simply there to provide shocks and entertainment; refreshingly they delve further into the themes of the film and it leaves the viewer with plenty to talk about. Great stuff. ... More
Absolutely terrific... very dark and dirty even if the ending was like a light at the end of the tunnel.... all concerned turned in great work, especially C Affleck who is strong becoming a favourite.... just excellent
color] ... More
For me, Casey Affleck wasn't just young looking, he looked like he hadn't lost an hour's sleep in his life; look at those massive close-ups at the end, after all the torment he'd been through, except he looked like a moisturizer advert. Close your eyes and he's got a superb voice; look at him and he's just wrong.
That said, the atmosphere of his world is well portrayed, (especially the cast of massively overweight extras) and the movie looks great. Ed Harris is as good as ever, and Morgan F... More
RE: Casey Affleck was not nominated in the Academy Awards?
It could be the hangover talking but this in one of the best films I've seen in all my puff.
Now, let's be realistic here. In this day and age of cynical second-guessing audiences you're asking for trouble if you attempt to do a tricksy thriller, and people (well, let's be specific...cunts) might leave the cinema instinctively and duty-bound to bitch about "plot" and "twists" and "turns" but in the same vein as a Chinatown, a Silence of the Lambs or an LA Confidential the real achie... More
One of the best thrillers this year. Casey Afflecks best performance since jesse james along with a great cast of ed harris, morgan freeman and the excellant oscar nominated amy ryan. It must be me but half-way threw i kinda knew what was gonna happen but still enjoyed what was a gripping film. Ben should stick to directing cause this is one of the best debut films from an actor in years. ... More
I think it's safe to say this film left me feeling uncomfortable throughout. It was unsettling, unnerving & incredibly thoughtful. Although the "twist" ending was a bit obvious I loved the very final scene which made you leave with a bad taste in your mouth.
Basically, if you want to watch a film that's genuinely dark & leaves you questioning your own morality, this is for you. If however you want action scenes with little concentration, go see Iron Man. ... More
Like many, I saw this ages ago. I thought it was excellent; a faithful adaptation of a great novel.
Perfect in all respects but one tiny bit of casting. I think most fans of the books will be disappointed by the casting of Bubba Rogowski; a domineering character in the books, somewhat unremarkable in the movie. Otherwise, spot on.
Massive kudos to Affleck Snr! ... More
e award for most overhyped movie of the year goes to Gone Baby Gone. Its attempts at understated considered drama fail, resulting in a total lack of urgency to the narrative, which considering that its about child abduction is a major flaw. Casey Affleck is miscast, too laid back & given little to work with there's no depth to his character. The whole thing lacks the sense of involvement needed & then it takes one ludicrous plot twist too many in the final reel as it becomes a bog stand... More
I saw this ages ago on DVD.
Indeed it is a bit like a made for TV movie.
I saw it at home a while ago too, but the reasons for the delayed release in the UK have been well documented.
I tend to associate made for TV movies as schmalzy and carrying little substance. Its true that there's not an effect to be seen in the movie (unless you count CGIing some water into a reservoir, which doesn't quite have an oooh factor), but its good adult entertainme... More