Ex-superstar actor, and now-superstar director, Ben Affleck’s debut feature, ‘Gone Baby Gone’, was a film I always found interesting, but never engaging.
For one, the strange televisual tone is problematic. The film draws some comparisons with HBO’s brilliant police drama, ‘The Wire’; it is dealing with police work in a similar part of the world (Boston and Baltimore) and some of the streets could have been ripped straight out of the first season of The Wire, with Affleck even going as far as shooting them in a similar way, with virtually useless transitional shots (often accompanied by a voiceover) showing ‘life on da street’, which just ended up disrupting the flow of the narrative. But, however hard the film tries, ‘Gone Baby Gone’ has nothing on ‘The Wire’. The depth of social commentary and psychological exploration dealt with in ‘The Wire’ is replaced with cardboard cut-out characters and a rushed moral message.
However, saying that, there are a couple of occasion when Affleck really does pull it off. The final shot, for one, is exquisitely beautiful and asks more questions of the audience than the entire two hours leading up to that point. It’s silent, it’s measured, and it’s fantastic.
Affleck also had a mixed bag with his cast; the prime example being his baby brother and lead, Casey Affleck. To his credit, his more low-key scenes are well performed and seem suitably natural, but when the film makes its way to high drama and thrills the poor guy crumbles and the constant look of absolute boredom does nothing to help his cause. On top of this, Michelle Monaghan, an actress that I like, has absolutely nothing to do but cry and seem pathetic, and then tops this off by being a meany to Casey Affleck’s at least partly likeable character. However, Ed Harris, someone who I often find disappointing, is a shining light. He plays his part with real conviction, and puts his all into every rum-fuelled, expletive-ridden rant, and he still manages to just about stay on tracks after some dubious character revelations.
The moral quandaries brought up in ‘Gone Baby Gone’ are definitely worth talking about, there’s no doubt about that, but I just felt like it could have had a far stronger and more engaging narrative vehicle to carry it along. Compared to the strength of the issues it deals with, Gone Baby Gone is weak. Watchable, but weak.