Gone Baby Gone (2007)
Gone Baby Gone (2007)

Genre: Crime Drama and Mystery Running Time: 1 hr. 54 min.

Release Date: October 19th, 2007 MPAA Rating: R

Director: Ben Affleck Actors: Casey Affleck, Michelle Monaghan, Morgan Freeman, Ed Harris, Amy Ryan, Amy Madigan, John Ashton, Titus Welliver, Edi Gathegi, Madeline O’Brien

 


 

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n a heated exchange, Patrick Kenzie shouts to Detective Bressant, “Murder is a sin!” to which the enraged officer replies, “It depends on who you do it to.” Every character in “Gone Baby Gone” is faced with such moral dilemmas and thoughts of vigilantism, examining to what lengths any of them would go to do what they believe is right. And with each tempestuous outcome, that very question is posed to the audience. As the lines between right and wrong blur, forcing the characters to seek out forgiveness or absolution for their decisions, viewers are encouraged to pick a side. But doing the “right” thing never felt so depressing. The sinking feeling that choosing what is legally acceptable isn’t best for the wellbeing of those involved leads to many interesting debates – but not to a place of satisfaction. While the ends might just justify the means, seeing justice prevail – but not happiness – is a rough trade-off in the world of entertainment. It might be necessary for realism, but who wants to stay too close to reality in the solace of a movie theater?

Amanda McCready (Madeline O’Brien) hires private investigator Patrick (Casey Affleck) and his partner Angie (Michelle Monaghan) to aid in the search and rescue of her kidnapped niece. The drugged-up and seemingly uncaring mother Helene (Amy Ryan) isn’t nearly distraught enough to be telling the whole truth, while Amanda’s husband (Titus Welliver) is equally as sketchy. Reluctantly joined by Detective Remy Bressant (Broussard in the novel, here played by Ed Harris), they interrogate local scumbags and drug kingpins in an attempt to locate the missing girl. But as each new clue is uncovered, the puzzle continually fails to fit, forcing the maddening conclusion to reveal that, perhaps as expected, nothing is what it seems.

The acting is incredibly well done, with Casey Affleck headlining the sensational cast as a very unconventional persona. He struggles to be a straight-laced hero, yet the film belittles him by giving him ties to shady miscreants and scenes in which he is not afraid to pull a gun in a bar fight that he instigated (or, later, even greater examples of street justice). It’s strong acting, but in the end, Patrick’s scripting causes him to be a largely disagreeable character. Meanwhile, Michelle Monaghan is his sidekick and girlfriend, playing it straight only to become much less memorable. And Ed Harris steals the show with his intense and ferocious enforcer, harboring a fragile façade that foreshadows darker motives. Morgan Freeman also has his share of potent moments as the deadly serious officer in charge of the tragic investigation.

The most distracting problem with “Gone Baby Gone” is its off-putting narration and the structuring of its three acts. Casey Affleck narrates at the beginning, which sets up the tone and aids with character development. Right around the halfway point, however, his monotonic voice cuts back in to comment, despite the fact that it isn’t the actual finale. And yet it sounds exactly like he is summing up events to draw the film to a close. This bizarre interruption by an omniscient voice jarringly yanks the audience away from the ongoing storyline, which is a critical mistake for a project that really only utilizes voiceover accounts to establish its murder/mystery or neo-film-noir mood.

Ben Affleck’s directorial debut is a keen one, commanding powerful performances and tackling weighty material on the nature of right and wrong (adapted by Affleck and Aaron Stockard from the novel by Dennis Lehane). What it lacks in catharsis it makes up for in gritty realism and tense struggles for life and controversial justice. Morally complex and diverse characters inhabiting such an unflinching world are seldom seen, making “Gone Baby Gone” a picture that won’t be easily forgotten – perhaps even more so for viewers disapproving of the dubious options so regularly adopted.

– The Massie Twins

  • 7/10