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  Gone Baby Gone

Starring: Casey Affleck, Michelle Monaghan, Ed Harris, Morgan Freeman

Directed by: Ben Affleck

Produced by: Alan Ladd Jr., Dan Rissner, Sean Bailey

Written by: Ben Affleck, Aaron Stockard

Distributor: Miramax Films


     Following in the footsteps of many of his cohorts in Hollywood, actor Ben Affleck has decided to try his luck at directing. The good news: Affleck’s debut feature, Gone Baby Gone, is a solid piece of filmmaking for a first-timer. The bad news: the movie’s major downfall is that it feels like the work of a freshman, despite its admirable production values.

     Among Affleck’s greatest accomplishments in Gone Baby Gone is his loving creation of a living, breathing setting of working-class Boston. He allows the city (his hometown) to vividly form a character of its own in his movie, imbuing in the material a much-needed sense of context. The opening shots of the people and places featured in the film are especially memorable, perfectly setting the tone for what’s to come.

     Ben’s brother Casey plays protagonist Patrick Kenzie, a private investigator in the aforementioned Bostonian setting. Clients call on Patrick and his girlfriend, Angie (Michelle Monaghan), to look into neighborhood crimes because the two know how to find a lot of people in the area that don’t usually associate with the police. Gone Baby Gone’s plot takes off when the pair is confronted by Lionel and Beatrice McCready (Titus Welliver and Amy Madigan), whose four-year-old niece Amanda has been missing for three days. Amanda’s mother Helene (Amy Ryan) is a depressed drug-addict who is more or less useless to the cause of finding her daughter, and her reckless behavior very well may have led to Amanda’s kidnapping.

     As Patrick and Angie track Amanda’s case, they discover over time that it isn’t as simple as it once seemed to them. Affleck stays with the quick-moving plot competently for the majority of the film, but his lack of experience behind the camera leads to the collapse of Gone Baby Gone’s third act. Affleck lacks the directorial confidence needed to make this portion of the film seem natural and, as a result, his artistic hand becomes apparent to the audience. The film bargains much of its success on the power of the complex moral dilemmas offered by its climax and resolution, which ends up being muted at best. Because he was unsure of his abilities as a director in assembling the film, Affleck overcompensated by exaggerating said dilemmas, which should’ve come off as subtle and nuanced. Instead, they are force-fed to the viewer in what seems like an overwrought thematic lecture. Affleck forgets that the touch of even the most experimental of filmmakers should be invisible to their audience. Watching the finale of Gone Baby Gone, I wouldn’t have been surprised to have seen puppet-strings moving the arms of the characters and Affleck controlling them from the upper edge of the frame.

     One thing that Affleck can be credited for sustaining for the length of Gone Baby Gone, however, is his brother Casey’s lead performance. With Ben’s direction, Casey maintains a stunning level of depth in a character that could’ve easily become trivialized by a less-skilled actor. He develops a great amount of authenticity to both the anguish and the redemption that Patrick feels in the film’s final moments, perhaps slightly redeeming the miscalculated way in which his brother handles this portion of the film. Between his outstanding work in Gone Baby Gone and in The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, Casey should find due recognition come Oscar time.

     Despite the considerable flaws found in his direction, Affleck still shows strong promise behind the camera. Given he isn’t exactly great at acting, there is no reason that Affleck shouldn’t work on improving his directing abilities instead. His work onGone Baby Gone, if nothing else, provides audiences a reason to eagerly await his next feature.

-Danny Baldwin, Bucket Reviews

Review Published on: 10.28.2007

Screened on: 10.19.2007 at the Edwards San Marcos 18 in San Marcos, CA.


Gone Baby Gone is rated R and runs 115 minutes.

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