Monday, October 22, 2007

Gone Baby Gone Review

Listen to my podcast about Gone Baby Gone here.

Never have I seen the Fenway AMC movie theater this packed before. Granted it was pouring outside on a Friday night, but the lines to both the ticket counter and the fandango machines were out the door. I arrived twenty minutes early, soaked to the bone hoping that I would not have to crane my neck in order to see the screen. Luckily enough I did not and when the screen lit up with that familiar Boston skyline, I grew content…but not for long.

Gone Baby Gone is a film laden with deep sorrow, regret and tragedy. Ben Affleck’s directorial debut is not a film for the easily confused nor the weak stomached. It is, however, a film that portrays a powerful image of the Boston underclass and the deep seated feelings that others hold against them.

As the film opens, Affleck draws you into the neighborhood of Dorchester, slowly panning from each local face to the next, hoping that the audience will be able to recognize part of what it is they are or are not. A little girl, Amanda McCready has gone missing and her Aunt Bea, Uncle Lionel and mother, Helene are pleading with the television news cameras for their little girl’s safe return. Casey Affleck is heard narrating throughout the opening credits, speaking of his days growing up on the same hard streets that he now fights crime on.

We are then introduced to Patrick Kenzie, depicted brilliantly by Casey Affleck. He and his live in associate girlfriend, Angie are both private investigators, used to the normal routines of finding missing people who forgot to pay their credit card bills and are now hiding out in new Hampshire. Bea pleads for Patrick and Angie to take the case of her missing niece, Amanda. This is the first instance in the movie where choice comes into play. Angie is at first reluctant to take it, and when they meet with the coked out and drunk Helene, she wants to flee immediately. But something in Patrick makes him want to take the case and they forge a bond to not let this particular missing child's case take a toll on their relationship. Patrick meets with the chief of police Jack Doyle, played by an underplayed Morgan Freeman, who himself has lost a child to murderous deviants and has vowed to never let another child go missing from the streets of Boston. Freeman’s part in this film is inherent to the actual outcome of the film but is sadly not used to his full potential

Patrick seems to know every loser in town. He runs into an old buddy of his who claims the night Amanda went missing, Helene was not over her friends house as she claims, but was instead doing lines of cocaine in the bathroom of their local southie pub. These relationships seem to be the glue that holds everyone together throughout the film. They provide Patrick with the name of every drug lord, pedophile and pimp in the city to help him solve the case of the missing Amanda.

Detective Remy Bressant, played wonderfully by veteran actor, Ed Harris is dispatched to help Patrick and Angie. Together, the three of them along with Bressant’s partner, Detective Nick Poole, probe Helene with multiple questions and find that she was a mule, or a drug carrier for a Haitian drug dealer, aptly named Cheese. They immediately pin point that cheese took Amanda away because Helene owed him over $130,000.

Armed with hand guns and each other Patrick and Angie go to meet Cheese at a quarry in Chelsea to retrieve Amanda and hand over his trafficked cash. While there, there is a shooting and neither Patrick, Angie nor the audience knows exactly what it going on. The camera action during this sequence is muddled throughout the dark images on screen and the trees through which is runs through. After Cheese is found dead, Amanda’s doll is found floating in the water.

The movie seemingly could end at this point. The movie goes into a montage of the future few months with Patrick narrating: Helene is given a death certificate, even though no body is ever found, Chief of Police Doyle moves away and Patrick and Angie move on with their lives. This was about 45 minutes into the film.

Through a series of events and people from his past, Patrick uncovers more and more information related to Amanda. Each choice he makes brings him to another clue. Patrick chooses to follow his drug dealer friend into the house of a convicted pedophile and heroin addict, where he ultimately discovers evidence of another child abduction. These scenes in particular, were very difficult to watch. The trail he is lead on leads him to a path of further difficult decisions and everywhere he turns, he begins to run into added lies and deceit.

This is a film ultimately about the choices that we make and the morals that we hold. Patrick is forced to make a very complex and difficult decision in the culmination of the film and the entire time, the audience is left wondering, a long with Patrick, if it was the right one to make.

This film was very well made. The dialogue, with all of the sharp witty comment from Helen’s mouth was both poignant and at time, hysterical. Amy Ryan, who played Helene will most certainly cinch the best supporting actress category at the Oscars. Her portrayal of a down and out dot mother with a drug problem made me cringe, laugh and sob. I especially enjoyed the filming techniques used by Ben Affleck and the way in which the film was split up into three seemingly different periods. The deception kept me guessing every second and the surprise ending is worth going to see the movie in the first place. Casey Affleck definitely holds his own against the veterans such as Harris and Freeman.

All in all, Gone Baby Gone lived up to the brethren of recent Boston made cinema. I can gladly say that it holds its own next to The Departed and Mystic River.


Matt said...

Gone Baby Gone was really good, and I've still found myself thinking about Patrick's decision at the end of the movie, whether or not he did the right thing. I've gone back and forth on an almost daily basis. I guess right now I think that he did the best he could do, but I guess I'm not sure.

And the scene where Angie leaped into the quarry was amazing and completely unexpected (even though it was in the preview, I noticed later).

Overall, I think the film was great and Ben Affleck should stay behind the camera, where he seems to be doing much better things than before.

Kristi F. said...

I first read this book about 3 years ago and I have been waiting for the movie to come out since. I think this is definitely one of the best novel to film adaptations I have seen in a very long time. Casey Affleck played a flawless Patrick, and the rest of the casting was very believable. I read an article yesterday on that said how they discovered the woman who played Dotty while she was cussing out dog while walking w/ her son.