For his initial offering as director, Ben Affleck returns to the site of his first Oscar: South Boston (he and Matt Damon shared the award for Good Will Hunting). Hot on the heels of his moving turn in Hollywoodland, Affleck's Dennis Lehane adaptation marks one of the more seamless actor-to-filmmaker transitions in recent years. Ostensibly, a procedural about the search for a missing child, class and corruption emerge as his primary concerns. First off, there's low-rent private eye Patrick Kenzie (Casey Affleck, equally adept in The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford). Then there's the girl's drug mule mother, Helene (Amy Ryan, Before the Devil Knows You're Dead). She and Patrick grew up in Dorchester, but he took a different path, setting up an agency with his girlfriend, Angie (Michelle Monaghan). Helene's aunt, Bea (Amy Madigan), hires the duo to augment the investigation, and they team up with Captain Doyle (Morgan Freeman) and Detective Bressant (Madigan's husband, Ed Harris). The authorities don't appreciate the interference, but Patrick knows how to get the local populace talking, and he soon finds there's more to the story than anyone could possibly imagine. Hard-hitting, but never soft-headed, the evocative end result proves Affleck has a flair for this directing thing and that his little brother can carry a major motion picture with aplomb. Gone Baby Gone belongs on the list of great Boston crime dramas, along with The Departed and Mystic River, Clint Eastwoods take on Lehane. --Kathleen C. Fennessy
Tense detective thriller, directed by Ben Affleck, about a small-time private investigator hired to find a kidnapped girl. Living and working in a run-down, impoverished district of Boston, Patrick Kenzie (Casey Affleck), along with his partner Angela (Michelle Monaghan), investigates the cases nobody else wants. When four-year-old Amanda McCready (Madeline O'Brian) disappears from her drug addict mother's house, the local police investigation, led by Capt. Jack Doyle (Morgan Freeman), comes up short. Hired by Amanda's aunt because they know the area and the locals so well, Patrick and Angela set out to uncover the truth, but soon find themselves caught up in a web of lies and corruption that threatens their relationship.
Based on the novel by Mystic River author Dennis Lehane, Gone Baby Gone marks the directorial debut of actor Ben Affleck. Featuring a solid cast including Ed Harris, Morgan Freeman, and Affleck's brother Casey, in the lead role as a private detective, Gone Baby Gone centres on the disappearance of a young girl in the working class neighborhood of Dorchester in South Boston. With plenty of twists and turns, the movie works as a solid crime thriller, but it's as a study of a place--and one's ability to either accept and embrace or ultimately break free from it--that the film flowers. Beneath the movie's street-tough justice and cop shop politics sits a very complicated view of the world, which Affleck delves into unflinchingly, thanks in large part to his ability to extract some excellent performances from his cast. Casey Affleck offers a nice mix of both steely resolve and vulnerability, while Harris presents a strong performance as a conflicted, emotionally tortured cop. Of particular note is Amy Ryan as the mother of the abducted girl. Her character's outrageous foul-mouthed demeanor ultimately ends up feeling both tragic and pathetic, with the only appropriate reactions being either pity or rage. It makes for an uncomfortable but affecting dichotomy. Gone Baby Gone signifies a confident and impressive turn behind the camera for one of Hollywood's more contentious stars. A Boston native himself, Affleck takes great care in evoking his city's entirety, from its undeniably ugly underbelly, to what feels like an almost primordial sense of community. It speaks to Affleck's substance as a director, and of good things to come.