Directed by: Ben Affleck
Premise: An adaptation of Dennis Lehane’s novel. A little girl is kidnapped and her mother (Amy Ryan) recruits a private investigator (Casey Affleck) to work with the local police find her.
What Works: Gone Baby Gone borrows a lot in style from Mystic River, another Lehane adaptation, but this is to the film’s credit, as the story shares the same kind of characters, locations, and themes. Like Mystic River, the characters of the film walk the tricky line between trying to do the right thing and following the rules. In Gone Baby Gone, Casey Affleck’s character finds this line constantly shifting and his unwavering attempt to maintain his own sense of righteousness is constantly being challenged by characters on all sides. The film treats this very smartly. Corrupt police officers are not simply bad or greedy people, but individuals who are frustrated with a system that lets heinous criminals go, and in their attempts to bring about justice the authorities find their own righteousness is compromised. The acting in Gone Baby Gone is very good, especially by Casey Affleck as an embattled private detective, Amy Ryan as the drug addicted mother, and Ed Harris as a passionate police detective. Gone Baby Gone deals with dark and disturbing subject matter, including violence against children, drug abuse, and pedophilia, and director Ben Affleck shows a great deal of courage and taste in handling this content. The film does not water it down but does give just enough detail to avoid being exploitative and roots the scenes in the horror of the survivors rather than in the joy of the perpetrator.
What Doesn’t: Although the clues leading up to the film’s climax are laid out well, the final revelation is a stretch of credibility. Also, Gone Baby Gone has a troubling finale that opens more issues than it closes. It is thematically consistent with the film but it is not entirely satisfying because some of the key issues are left unresolved.
Bottom Line: Gone Baby Gone does a lot right and despite the weakness of the conclusion, it’s a very good film.
Episode: #175 (January 25, 2008)