Posts Tagged ‘Crime’

Gone Baby Gone (2007)

Gone Baby Gone Screenshot

The Scorn Watch

I watched this film largely because of two things – it was well reviewed (I’m a serial consumer of movie reviews!) and it was set and filmed on location in Boston. I discounted the first to some degree because this was Ben Affleck’s first directorial effort. After all Affleck is more pretty boy than anything else; in contrast Damon (his congenitally joined twin in movie terms) has it all – the hunk tag, box office success and serious actor cred. I came away from the movie impressed by Ben Affeck’s directorial skills and looking forward to his next directorial venture. As for Boston, this may as well have been set in an unfamiliar city. It was a view of Boston that I’d never seen despite having lived in the city for 6 years. The cop cars, the street signs, the T, the accents all seemed familiar but it was a working class Dorchester neighborhood populated by the sort of people that I have little familiarity with.

The movie is a thriller/whodunit of the tough, gritty kind, with PIs, cops, gangsters, drug dealers – the sorts of people one knows only from the movies. In fact I’m convinced that if I meet a real gangster (god forbid!) who is different, I’d be more inclined to distrust the first hand evidence rather than correct my movie based schema of them 😉 . Despite a large and competent ensemble cast, the movie rides largely on the strength of Casey Affleck’s Private Investigator character. I don’t have a schema for PIs outside of the movies and books, but Affleck Jr. transcends that constraint. He simply is the hometown boy with a wide network of local connections who has a feel for the neighborhood, the lives, motivations, fears and hopes of its denizens. Of course, it helps that Affleck is a home town South Boston guy and he pulled me into the story with his effortless performance. I’d only ever seen him in the Ocean’s franchise although Pan has spoken of how much she liked the Jesse James movie and his performance.

The story itself seemed felt like three separate, only tenuously related segments – the story of the abduction of 4 year old Amanda, the child pedophile stakeout and the role of the cops. However when it all comes together, it seems to fit into a more conventional structure of a 3 act play – setting up the premise, unfolding of the plot and the climax. The fact that the 3 segments are distinct and not obviously related is a strength of the movie albeit one that you realize only at the end. There is plenty of edge-of- the- seat action, some gruesome scenes that I watched through the cracks of my fingers and well paced suspenseful twists in the plot. A few twists you can guess but the final one I didn’t see coming. I’m easily led down the garden path but only by a well told story; so it a testament to this story’s gripping narrative.

In the final analysis, as much as I enjoy well told stories and gripping thrillers what won me over is how this movie sets up the moral ambiguity of the final outcome. For the most part the good and the bad guys in the movie are clearly delineated although not in a cardboard cut-out, unidimensional fashion. At the end however, I felt torn – switching loyalties between Affleck’s character’s view point and that of his girlfriend played by Michelle Monaghan. The strength of the movie is that it is not preachy at all, doesn’t present the moral questions with any self-righteousness or self consciousness even but the moral underpinnings of the major characters are very much at the heart of the narrative. One of the most memorable characters in the film is that of Amanda’s mother played by Amy Ryan. At first this is a character that seems clearly set up in the role of one of the bad guys, yet she defies that stereotype as the movie wears on and in the end one isn’t sure what to make of her. The movie ends with a final rueful shot of Casey Affleck’s character making good on the consequences of his action and it really is thought provoking and ambiguous in its tone, in short – the perfect ending!

Scorn-Card: A- 


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