Directed by: Ben Affleck
Film is released on June 6th 2008 in the U.K.
Review by Oliver Pfeiffer
Untimely and unfortunate similarities to the Madeleine McCain case deemed Ben Affleck’s directorial debut Gone Baby Gone too sensitive to under go its original intended premiere screening at last year’s BFI London film festival. Now 12 months after Madeleine’s tragic disappearance Affleck’s film gets its premiere release in UK cinemas.
But the film is more than just a routine Hollywood thriller; it’s a hardened nut of a detective mystery that proves Affleck’s got what it takes to make the successful transition from average acting player of sometime lacksure Hollywood efforts (Pearl Harbor, Daredevil, The Sum of All Fears) to sensitive helmer of intelligent and meaningful movies.
Gone Baby Gone revolves around the esteemed efforts of two romantically linked inexperienced private investigations who attempt to track down the whereabouts of a missing four year old girl, in the midst of the toughest slums of downtown Boston. Initially reluctant to take on the case, Boston resident Patrick Kenzie (confidently nurtured by Affleck’s younger brother Casey) and his partner Angie Gennaro (Michelle Monaghan), undergo the missing case under the esteemed insistence of the missing child’s aunt (who doesn’t have much faith in the police) but find that they stand to lose a great deal in their probing investigations.
What could have been a hit and miss mystery actually benefits from its careful plot prognosis and mixture of impressive young talent and weathered supporting cast, that includes veterans Morgan Freeman (playing a disgruntled but determined Police Captain with a vested interest in the case) and Ed Harris (as shady, stern detective Remy) not forgetting a welcome return of character player John Ashton – who doesn’t appear to have aged since his stint as irritable cop John Taggart in the Beverley Hills Cop movies 20 years ago. Likewise the script, (penned by both Affleck and first timer Aaron Stockard, who both adapt from Dennis Lehane’s critically acclaimed novel), is kept fresh and crisp and clique- free, inviting the viewer to add their own experience and draw their own moral interpretations to the piece.
This is the first film since William Friedkin’s ultimately bleak claustrophobic drama Bug, where the audience is invited to be involved in the occurrences of the plot and the film is made all the more stronger for this active participation. Gone Baby Gone is also notable for bestowing a suitably authentic grimy tinge to proceedings that encourages aesthetic comparisons to the likes of Seven, grating it a lived-in feel for its gloomy, dangerously real environment. This is a detective movie in the decadent mold of 40s film noir, ensnarling the investigators within a cold, harsh unlawful murderous underbelly that takes in malevolent drug runners, unkempt cocaine addicts and hideously deformed and hostile bar residents.
But it’s the plot’s clever jarring unexpectedness that retains primary interest, one that promises to unveil some disturbing truths that push boundaries in terms of morality, resulting in one of the most disturbingly satisfying and daring denouncements in recent film history, but one that that will also promote audience debate long after those closing credits roll.
Apart from a slightly sagging middle section that assumes a lesser conclusion will be opted (perhaps the point) and a few characterizations that are cut a little too close to familiarity, Gone Baby Gone is a triumph for all involved and will keep audiences guessing to the bitter end. To call this film a malicious, hard and twisted cinematic feat is to grant it praise of the highest cinematic acclaim: this is a thinking man’s mystery thriller.