Based on a novel from the same author as Mystic River, this shares much of the same ambiguity and flawed characters of that movie. Set in the seedier and grittier parts of Boston, the tale revolves around a missing girl. Casey Affleck and Michelle Monaghan play the private detectives who are requested by relatives to help the search, and the beginning of the movie introduces us to a milieu which shows an unforgiving background for bringing up the child. The characters we meet include pimps, hard-assed barmen, mules (drug runners), dubious cops and various other dregs of society.
What is remarkable about the movie is how convincing is the air of authenticity of the neighbourhoods and houses. It all feels horribly real. And not least the characters, who all have their flaws as well as their streaks of humanity. Be warned, the language, particularly in the first third of the movie, is full of intense profanity which may put some off, but is certainly in keeping with the locales and personalities.
As the film progresses, it takes directions we could not suspect, raising genuine issues on where lines are drawn, how the thin wedge of corruption can take its toll, and should the role of a parent be questioned? It's controversial subject matter, unflinchingly portrayed, and absorbing with it.
There's no doubt that Ben Affleck has done the wise thing and surround himself with terrific co-workers... His brother Casey puts in a blisteringly underplayed performance that never fails to convince us of both his working class credentials and his strong moral compass. The entire effect is completed by the supporting cast comprising the likes of John Ashton, Morgan Freeman and the ever terrific Ed Harris who give real gravitas to proceedings. Harry Gregson Williams has delivered another unobtrusive but powerful soundtrack, and Oscar winning John Toll's cinematography is spectacular (particularly in this crystal clear Blu-Ray).
A stunning debut then from the elder Affleck, and another terrific performance from Casey Affleck further cementing his rise to stardom.