The thing that sticks with you the most in Gone Baby Gone isn’t just how good the movie is, but how the movie ends. In a matter of five minutes and one scene you can tell how the the main character’s life will turn out in regards to the character he’s left with. The main character I speak of is Private Detective Patrick Kenzie played with brooding naivety one second and a calm anger with a peppering of necessary violence the next by the wonder boy of the year Casey Affleck. Casey plays the last moments of the scene as someone who realizes that while every one else might have been correct, he was still right, and he will have to give the rest of his life to make it work. I know that’s incredibly vague, but hopefully it will spark enough interest in the few readers that read this to want to go see the film. The final shot in itself is so quietly moving it’s worth the 11 to 14 dollars admission.
The film is about a kidnapped girl. The victim’s aunt decides that the police aren’t doing enough and so go to Kenzie and his partner-slash-lover Angie Genarro, who Michelle Monaghan steeps in an “I’m beautiful and intelligent snobbery and you’re not”, that doesn’t seem to mesh so well with Kenzie’s people of the street mentality, but here they are. And while her passion for finding the child is just as strong as Kenzie’s their differences come into play later. They are met with both raised eyebrows and friendship by the various cops in the film, two of whom are played by the great actors Morgan Freeman and Ed Harris. Aside from Casey Affleck, another surprise of the film is Amy Ryan who plays the Mother of the missing girl Helene McCready. The performance is balls to the wall, a straight forward character who becomes almost too real and complicated for our current cinema to handle. Between Affleck and Ryan there should be some Oscar buzz mounting, but I’ll return to this depressing subject later.
For a moment I’ll talk about the other Affleck involved in the film, Ben Affleck, the writer and director. While not everyone thinks Ben is a talented actor, I think most everyone still wants to see him succeed. His charm comes through in his performances, even when he plays a prick. If with the right roles and the proper direction, my feeling is he could be used as something quite incredible in the movies, but that never seemed to happen. Thank God. His skills as a director are unquestionably good. He delivers a well paced, exciting and moving thriller that deals just as much with the characters and their environment as it does with the story at hand. In fact the three ideas intermingle so well that it becomes a trinity of goodness in which Kenzie has to deal with the murk of people’s morally gray areas. It’s likely then that Boston is the place where the story unfolds, and Affleck doesn’t show us a Hollywood landscape of beautiful faces in a dark murky world, but a place of brow beaten people, many of whom are quite normal looking people, for some it makes it even more frightening. This is of course where crime is at it’s most complex in the world of cinema. Unlike Mystic River and The Departed, Ben has decided to stay away from the archetypal characters and instead creates a world in which real people are dangerous enough to drive the story forward, and when deal with child kidnapping I don’t think there’s anything scarier.
The script, while unable to avoid the crime mystery novel genre speeches from characters who’ve been hiding the truth, doesn’t give us the truth until the protagonists have to work for it, and Kenzie has to work for it, because there’s a lot of truth hidden around here. For such a small, bony figure Affleck carries a heavy weight behind those eyes, a threatening weight when he needs to. It’s the complete reverse of his incredible performance in The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, where he was all tics and insecurity. And the cost of truth runs deep for him. Now as for the Oscar race, even though he deserves a nomination for this film, he won’t get it, because he’s too new and it would be best actor. They are more than likely to award him with what most fresh and talented actors are awarded with, the supporting statuette for his performance as Robert Ford. It’s a sad political truth, but either way I say he’s still deserving.
This was the second Alan Ladd film I’ve seen this month. The first was Blade Runner: The Final Cut (read my review here.) And let me tell you it was nice to see that little digital green tree grace the screen again after all this time, especially after two especially great films.