‘With Ben Affleck’s next directorial project being a solo Batman film coming out next year following on from Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Suicide Squad this year, I thought I’d take the opportunity to re-watch and review his three previous films he’s directed in the order of years they were released in.’
Directed by Ben Affleck
Screenplay written by Ben Affleck & Aaron Stockard
Based on the novel by Dennis Lehane
Starring Casey Affleck, Michelle Monaghan, Morgan Freeman, Ed Harris, John Ashton, Amy Ryan, Amy Madigan & Titus Welliver
UK Release Date: 6th June 2008
When two young Boston area private detectives (Affleck and Monaghan) are hired to take a closer look into the mysterious disappearance of a little girl, they soon unravel a multitude of twists and turns where nothing is what it seems and they must ultimately risk everything in the search to find her.
There was much anticipation and debate surrounding the directorial debut from Ben Affleck and just how well he can handle making a film from behind the camera for the first time. Saying that, he knows a thing or two when contributing to the whole pre-production process of making a film having won an Oscar along with Matt Damon in co-writing the screenplay for Good Will Hunting (1997). After seeing this movie for the first time at the cinema 8 years back, I was blown away by how good this was. Affleck had officially found his true calling card. Adapted from the novel by Dennis Lehane, the writer of such other literary works that received big screen adaptations in the likes of Mystic River and Shutter Island, this is a story inspired by true life events with subject matter that strikes really close to home. As a directorial effort, I would confidently put this right up there as a worthy addition sided with Clint Eastwood’s Play Misty For Me (1971) and Kevin Costner’s Dances With Wolves (1990) as great accomplishments by an actor turned director.
Affleck wastes no time in getting into the real heart of the story, pulling us straight into the thick of it from the very first opening credits scene. The script is very much tightened, you can tell no time was wasted or delayed in every scene he shot, the Boston streetwise dialogue brilliantly written with every actor in the film pulling their weight, putting in equally engaging performances. Especially Casey Affleck whom bares most of the film’s weight on his shoulders, clearly having a mutual respect with and admiration for Ben; not only as real life brothers but as a professional director and actor team. The story itself is masterfully structured as we follow the two detectives getting themselves into more hot water as they question everyone in the area, mainly in filthy bars and hideouts, facing drug dealers and gangs wherever they go where danger is lurking in every possible dark corner.
The DVD bonus features also really compliment the film very well that includes a really interesting featurette about the casting in Gone Baby Gone where Affleck makes the perfect choice of shooting on real location where both him and Casey actually grew up in Boston so they knew the people, knew how they lived and knew the Boston accent really well. Affleck also takes the professional approach of not seeing Casey as his younger brother but as a really good character actor who is able to really get his head down and willing to take all directions that is thrown at him. Also casting other real people living in these rough neighbourhoods as extras on the film set gives this movie an overall greater sense of authenticity.
There’s really hardly anything bad about this film per se, just one pivotal point halfway into this film that was more of a head scratching what the hell moment. Without revealing anything that is integral to the story, our two detectives hit a bit of a snag when it comes to getting to the bottom of the disappearance of Amanda once and for all, one where I kept telling myself it just couldn’t end like this that seemingly had no real closure. It then brings in another storyline that was overseen earlier, focusing on an investigation into a child molester that may have links with Amanda disappearing. As it gradually unfolds with all its twists and turns, you soon realise it makes sense and perfectly pieces itself together like a perfectly formed jigsaw puzzle after reverting itself back to the central investigation. My only gripe was it took me out of the moment at first but I needn’t had worry once it reached its final conclusion.
Ben Affleck has crafted himself a five star solid effort as a first time director. You’re sucked into a realistic world where anything dangerous and lethal can happen on these kind of streets in Boston, producing well rounded fleshed out characters that keep you guessing in which ones are actually honest and who are just really good at keeping deep, dark secrets. Not everyone are who they seem and ones that you thought you can trust, are full of nothing but lies and deceit. It also remains as one of the few films that actually make you question the motives of the lead protagonist, whether the choice he makes is either a morally right or wrong one. Wherever you stand with it, depending on your point of view; its hard to argue that it has massive repercussions on every other character in the story, let alone on the life of four year old Amanda. The main question it asks is what would you do if you were in that situation?