Review: Gone Baby Gone (2007)

Gone Baby Gone

Gone Baby Gone

Rating



Director

Ben Affleck

Screenplay

Ben Affleck, Aaron Stockard (Novel by Dennis Lahane)

Length

114 min.

Starring

Casey Affleck, Michelle Monaghan, Morgan Freeman, Ed Harris, John Ashton, Amy Ryan, Amy Madigan, Titus Welliver, Michael Kenneth Williams, Edi Gathegi, Mark Margolis, Madeline O’Brien

MPAA Rating

R (for violence, drug content and pervasive language)

Buy/Rent Movie

Poster

Source Material

Review

The disappearance of a young girl leads a private investigating couple into a race to uncover the child’s location before she ends up dead.

Gone Baby Gone marks the directorial debut of actor Ben Affleck. For years, the actor followed up his stellar debut in Good Will Hunting with big budget blockbusters and quickly became a box office failure as he picked up more ludicrous projects and delivered disappointing performances. When he appeared in Hollywoodland as the first television Superman, George Reeves, heads turned and most declared it a resurrection of his acting career.

Now, he’s changed gears and moved behind the camera to film his second screenplay, co-written with friend Aaron Stockard. Their screenplay for Gone Baby Gone adapts the Dennis Lahane novel about Patrick Kenzie (Ben’s brother Casey Affleck) and his girlfriend Angie Gennaro (Michelle Monaghan) as they try to find out who took Helene McCready’s (Amy Ryan) daughter Amanda (Madeline O’Brien).

The story takes several twists as Patrick and Angie clash with the police over jurisdiction. Detectives Remy Bressant (Ed Harris) and Nick Poole (John Ashton) grudgingly work with them at the behest of their captain Jack Doyle (Morgan Freeman). There’s a point in the story where it begins meandering, but it quickly twists back to the original plot, creating only a moment’s diversion.

The cast of Gone Baby Gone is solid. Each actor shines in individual scenes, but working together, the ensemble can easily be declared one of the best. Affleck is the best of the lot, making Patrick a conflicted, but likable character who suffers through defeat as often as he does success. Monaghan ably supports him in her few scenes. Harris and Ashton are both good, Harris switching up his typical villain role for a more deeply defined one. Freeman walks through the film, but sometimes a veteran actor merely has to show up to deliver a credible performance.

The two Amys, Ryan and Madigan, who plays her character’s stepmother, play well off of one another. Although their characters aren’t related, there’s a strong correlation between the two, which may explain why they are divisively at odds with one another. Ryan’s character lacks a great deal of sympathy early on, delivers an emotional appeal in the middle and winds up the film back at her unsympathetic origin. Whether we are supposed to believe Patrick’s done the right thing or not is difficult to tell for her last scenes don’t give us the needed information to decide. Whether this is a script problem or an issue with Ryan’s performance, it’s impossible to tell.

Ben’s work on Gone Baby Gone is absolutely amazing. Alongside Sarah Polley (Away from Her), Ben tops the list of smashing debuts this year. It thus poses the question could he be a bigger success behind the camera than in front of it? Regardless of whether he decides to continue as an actor, as a director or as a careful balance of the two careers, it’s clear that we could be seeing greater things from him in the future.

Review Written

February 1, 2008

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