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|Gone Baby Gone|
|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E||
dir Ben Affleck|
scr Ben Affleck, Aaron Stockard
with Casey Affleck, Michelle Monaghan, Morgan Freeman, Ed Harris, Amy Ryan, John Ashton, Amy Madigan, Titus Welliver, Michael Kenneth Williams, Edi Gathegi, Mark Margolis, Trudi Goodman
release US 19.Oct.07, UK 6.Jun.08
07/US Miramax 1h54
Just a few questions: Monaghan and Affleck
INTERVIEW WITH BEN AFFLECK
An unusually patient approach to storytelling sets Ben Affleck's directorial debut apart, as he allows events to unfurl gradually, drawing gritty performances from his solid cast.
When a 4-year-old girl goes missing in Boston, her aunt and uncle (Madigan and Welliver) turn to local private eyes Patrick (Casey Affleck) and Angie (Monaghan). After three days, the police chief (Freeman) has no leads, and the girl's addict mother (Ryan) isn't much help, especially when virtually everything she says turns out to be a lie. Patrick helps two detectives (Harris and Ashton) follow the trail to a drug dealer (Gathegi) and seem to solve the mystery, but nagging questions remain.
Beautifully shot by John Toll, the film really captures the mood of the tough neighbourhood, from character-filled bars to the distinct dialect. In many ways, the film feels so grounded in its place that we feel like outsiders who can never hope to crack the surface. This keeps us from ever fully engaging emotionally with the situation, no matter how grippingly dramatic it gets. While the jingoistic, declarative dialog sounds far too cinematic for its own good.
At least the cast is good enough to overcome these barriers. Casey Affleck slurs most of his dialog beyond recognition and yet manages to give the film a bracingly ethical centre. His subtle reactions are fascinating, as is the way he plays Patrick's climactic moral dilemma. Monaghan has some terrific scenes all her own, while Harris gives one of his more kinetic turns as a cop with a massive chip on his shoulder. But at the film's heart is Ryan's terrific performance as a woman who seems unable to grasp what's happening around her.
But the best thing about the story is the provocative examination of situational morality in a place where it's virtually impossible to figure out what's right and wrong. This is a mystery in which, once you find out whodunit, you're not sure what to do about it. Logic says one thing, the heart says another, and that nagging honourable inner voice says something that seems unthinkable. The film's real strength is that it forces us to make a decision too.
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© 2008 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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