Gone Baby Gone (2007) ****
Directed by Ben Affleck
Gone Baby Gone suffers from what I will call Juno Syndrome. At the very beginning, we are aggressively presented with heavy
As the plot unfolded, I began to think that this would be a light crime thriller since the investigation into a little girl’s kidnapping treaded familiar cinematic waters. Therefore, I might have to judge this film based on how much fun I had with it. Little did I know that one of the film’s missions was to catch the viewer off guard with plot twist after plot twist. At around the one hour mark, the case is closed and we hear voice-over narration that feels right out of the final scene of countless other films. Casey Affleck’s character reflects on the lessons learned and the personal growth experienced by the people involved in this concluded investigation. I think this manipulation and deception was done deliberately by Affleck in order to put the first investigation completely behind us and start anew with a second kidnapping. It worked brilliantly on me at least.
Hour number two presents a new and much darker investigation, which made me stop judging the film’s success based on my enjoyment. Gone Baby Gone becomes exceptionally suspenseful, frightening and truly disturbing. Casey Affleck’s private investigator Patrick Kenzie enters the house of two hardened criminals and a convicted pedophile alone at night. The tension during this scene becomes almost unbearable and its conclusion leaves the viewer feeling deeply unsettled. The final act of the film goes somewhere else, concluding with a plot twist that I didn’t see coming and found extremely effective. Once all is revealed, Patrick must make an extremely important but unimaginably difficult decision. He does make a choice, and yet, had the film decided to go the other way, it probably would have been just as satisfying, though surely the final scene would be very different than the one we get to see here.
I think Casey Affleck gives an Oscar caliber performance as Patrick. He was nominated for Best Supporting Actor this past year for his work in The Assassination of Jesse James, which I have not seen. I’d like to believe that he would have been nominated for this film had he not appeared in The Assassination. He has the face of a fourteen year old, which is pointed out often by characters in the film, and yet, he has the acting chops and screen presence that leaves his older brother Ben in the dust. My prediction is that he will become a superstar sometime in the next five years. He may quite possibly be the next Johnny Depp.
The film also gives us some great and complicated supporting performances by Ed Harris, Morgan Freeman, Michelle Monaghan and Amy Ryan.
Ben Affleck, without a doubt, deserves to be taken seriously as a great screenwriter. His collaboration with Matt Damon in Good Will Hunting proved to the world and the Academy voters that these two aren’t just pretty faces. Affleck steps it up here by offering this as his directing debut. In Gone Baby Gone, there are moments of inspired filmmaking and direction. The only suggestion I would offer Affleck would be to reign it in just a little bit with both future screenplays and future directorial projects. Sometimes the dialogue and the camera tricks go a bit too far, taking us out of the movie for a moment or two. Without a doubt, Affleck’s got the potential for an amazing career behind the camera. There’s intelligence to the story in this film which is quite refreshing, and the way the film ends works great! Both Afflecks deserve high praise for Gone Baby Gone! It was darker and more powerful than I expected, yet the real surprise for me was how well made and well executed the film turned out to be!