Written by Caballero Oscuro
Gone Baby Gone seems like a bad idea in theory. The source material is Dennis Lehane’s book about a missing girl in Boston, which bears similarity to his work on Mystic River, and really, if Clint Eastwood films something, shouldn’t there be some reasonable standard of limitations before anyone else makes an attempt in the same arena? Then there’s its rookie director, Ben Affleck, seemingly retreating behind the lens (and pen) after falling out of favor as a leading man. To top it off, its star is younger Affleck bro Casey, who until last year was a completely middling presence on film. With all of these knocks against it, there seems to be little hope of success, so it’s all the more remarkable that the film excels as both a competent drama and an acting showcase.
Casey Affleck plays Patrick Kenzie, a Boston private detective called in to assist in the hunt for a missing girl. His partner (Michelle Monaghan) warns against taking the case, but he’s determined to use his neighborhood connections to make a difference. His first stop is a meeting with the girl’s mother (Amy Ryan), a druggie burnout who seems to have zero maternal instinct. He also meets the detectives assigned to the case (Ed Harris and John Ashton), as well as their kindly captain (Morgan Freeman). As he traverses the seedy underbelly of his Boston neighborhood in a search for clues, it quickly becomes clear that there’s more to the case than a simple kidnapping.
Harris’ detective character Remy Bressant gives off weird vibes that he’s not exactly being above-board about his role in the investigation, and Kenzie’s neighborhood leads keep him chasing a trail that he suspects is a little off, but he’s powerless to avoid following through to the seemingly final fate of the girl. It’s only after this pivotal point that the film unleashes its full power to move viewers, as its grand denouement forces us to take a side on what becomes a painful moral choice.
Ben Affleck shines in his first directorial outing, primarily because he injects the film with a heady sense of realism thanks to his own upbringing in the Boston area. He knows the gritty streets and characters he’s filming, and his background is a great asset that helps the film rise above Mystic River Lite status. Similarly, Casey Affleck affects the accent and attitude of his youth, lending great credence to his role. He’s not given quite the showcase role as his Oscar-nominated turn in The Assassination of Jesse James, but he’s at all times effective and eminently watchable, a far cry from his past mediocre work like Lonesome Jim. As for the rest of the cast, Amy Ryan fully earns her Oscar nom as the drugged-out mom, Ed Harris puts in an impressive turn, and even Morgan Freeman seems to be on his game instead of dialing it in.
The DVD includes extended opening and closing scenes, as well as featurettes about the production. Gone Baby Gone will be available on DVD and Blu-Ray.