Monday, October 6, 2008

Movie Review: Gone Baby Gone

Gone Baby Gone

Directed by Ben Affleck

Based on a novel by Dennis Lehane, Gone Baby Gone is actor Ben Affleck's first foray into the directing business, and proves quite impressively that he is a far better director than he is an actor. Indeed, what struck me about the movie as I watched it and in the minutes following its conclusion, is how similar to a Clint Eastwood movie it felt, both in terms of style and mood. Part of this is possibly due to the film Mystic River, also based on a Lehane book, directed by Eastwood.

Mystic River was another gloomy, harrowing film that ended with anything but a happy ending. Suffice to say, Gone Baby Gone was its equal in its depressing, tense, and ultimately overwhelmingly tragic unraveling of events. If you're not out to be depressed by a movie, perhaps this one is not for you. Nevertheless, Gone Baby Gone is one of the best films I've seen in a while--at least, one of the best dramatic films I've seen in a while, and I'm not alone in this assessment. Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a 94% rating. It's not a rule of thumb, as there is no accounting for taste, but basically any movie that gets above a 90% on Rotten is a safe bet. Gone Baby Gone was no exception.

Starring Casey Affleck, Morgan Freeman, and Ed Harris, it is a narrative full of unexpected twists, painting a grim picture of modern-day Boston and the even grimmer reality of the plight of children there. As a relatively new parent, watching a movie about the disappearance of a young girl was almost too much to bear. My daughter is a toddler, and some of the moments in this movie were so emotionally harrowing, I could barely watch.

This continues throughout. The end, though completely unexpected, offers no relief.

The acting, cinematography, writing--all of these were excellent. But what stole the show was the brilliance of the plot. I have never read a Lehane novel, but after this film I will. Most movies that employ "twists" are rather transparent. I usually see them coming. There have been a few that have caught me off guard. Twelve Monkeys comes to mind. But Gone Baby Gone surprised me, and then left me even more emotionally confused then before.

I won't go into great detail over the plot of this film. Suffice to say, Patrick Kenzie (Casey Affleck) is a street-wise private detective in over his head, but up to the job, when he starts investigating the disappearance of young Amanda McCready (Madelline O'Brien). Things get complicated, and dark, quite quickly. Not all is what it appears.

114 minutes later you have all your answers, and innumerable hard questions that transcend the film itself. This is a thought-provoking film, and your ruminations will not stop when the credits role....