17th April, 2008
Gone Baby Gone (MA15+)
In A Word: Haunting
URBAN CRIME MYSTERY: Stars Casey Affleck, Michelle Monaghan and Morgan Freeman tackle the puzzle. PICTURE: Photographer: Claire Folger © 2006 Miramax Film Corp. All Rights Reserved.
"This is – at its core – a dark morality tale about a working class, Catholic man in Boston who must make tough decisions in the presence of shady characters."
“When I was young, I asked my priest, ‘How you could get to heaven and still protect yourself from all the evil in the world?’ He told me what God said to His children. ‘You are sheep among wolves. Be wise as serpents, yet innocent as doves’."
This is one of the first lines of dialogue spoken in Gone Baby Gone, a haunting film based on the novel by Mystic River scribe Dennis Lehane, and adapted to the silver screen by Ben Affleck and Aaron Stockhard. Affleck also handles directorial duties in his debut behind the camera, and (to the surprise of all) has crafted an exceptional well paced urban crime mystery, capping off a successful career turn around which began with his award winning turn as George Reeves in Hollywoodland.
Gone Baby Gone stars Casey Affleck and Michelle Monaghan as two local Boston private detectives who have been asked to help locate a missing four-year-old girl who was taken from her bedroom whilst her mother (Amy Ryan) was out partying with her drug runner boyfriend. Delving deeper into the case, they find a dark conspiracy which will test their principles and haunt them for the rest of their days.
This is – at its core – a dark morality tale about a working class, Catholic man in Boston who must make tough decisions in the presence of shady characters. Much like Mystic River, the residents of the south Boston neighborhoods where these stories are set are forever linked by their Catholic faith, which Affleck gratefully does not exploit but subtly points to at the right moments.
The cast is excellent. Along with his stellar performance in The Assassination of Jesse James, Casey Affleck has come into his own as a captivating lead actor who manages to get under the skin of his characters, and here is no exception. Amy Ryan gives a sympathetic portrayal of a disgusting single mother who – although undeserving of a child – still is entitled to the benefit of a second chance. Ed Harris and the underused John Ashton are great as police detectives, and Morgan Freeman shines in one of his more interesting roles in years.
The city of Boston – which seems to be Hollywood’s new favourite stomping ground for crime flicks with last years The Departed and the before mentioned Mystic River – is itself an essential and important character in the movie.
A film that provides no easy answers (and is sure to create debate at its conclusion), Gone Baby Gone is a pleasant surprise and one of the best films of the year.
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