‘Gone Baby Gone’ is Ben Affleck’s directorial debut, even though he did direct two other films that never made it to the big screen. Ben Affleck and Aaron Stockard (co-writer) have brought Dennis Lehane’s novel to life in a way that is both “hard” (said with a Boston accent) and realistic. The film at its heart is about tough decisions and living with consequences.
Little Amanda McCready has gone missing. Her mother, Helene (Amy Ryan) is dead-beat mom with a drug addiction. Her childless brother Lionel and his wife Bea (Titus Welliver and Amy Madigan) call in private detectives after the police are unable to find Amanda after three days. Patrick and Angie (Casey Affleck and Michelle Monaghan) usually find dead beat parents who skip out on their child support. They take the case after some persuading by Bea. Patrick, though reluctant at first, knows he can walk between the lines of cops and gangsters and find this little girl.
Patrick and Angie are teamed up with two Boston Detectives who are unimpressed with the two private investigators. However, the detectives quickly see that the PI’s are able to go where they can not. Ed Harris plays Det. Remy Bressant (in a bad hairpiece) as a cop with his own strict sense of morality. His partner Det. Nick Poole (John Ashton) and Bressant seem like good cops, but, like everything in ‘Gone Baby Gone’, they just don’t feel right.
After we meet some shady characters several truths come out and before you know it little Amanda’s destiny is revealed. The film doesn’t end at this point. A new case inadvertently comes to Patrick and there are possible ties to Amanda’s case. Patrick, unable to let the events that transpire with Amanda go, is haunted by questions that have no answers. It is here where we see Casey Affleck emerge as an actor. At times he still looks like a little kid in a world of gangsters and policemen. This has its advantages for both the role and the actor. Casey Affleck is a ferocious dog when he needs to be and has the chops to back it up, not in a physical way, but with determination and passion that has been rarely seen in films of the genre.
Casey Affleck is not the only actor to shine in the film. Amy Ryan’s portrayal of Helene the dead beat drug addicted Dorchester mother is haunting. After learning that she is indeed not from Boston and not a local cast in the film her Academy Award nomination should be an actual Academy Award. Never before have I seen transformation or performance feel completely real. Ryan steals all of her scenes from the actors around her yet never steals anything away from their performances. Without a doubt she deserves all the praise she is receiving for her work.
The film joins the ranks of great Boston crime sagas such as ‘The Departed’, ‘Mystic River’ and even maybe ‘The Boondock Saints’. The Boston crime saga might even become its own genre to itself. It is a genre filled with realistic characters making realistic life changing decisions played out in a black and white world that will require grey decisions.
You might not like the ending. The decisions made by Patrick at the end of the film are difficult to live with. Right or wrong you’ll make your own decision, as he did. Fortunately this is just a story so the players and consequences are not real. What is real is how you and the person next to you will feel about those decisions.
There are two very short documentaries on the DVD that play out like an “HBO First Look”. The first is “Going Home: Behind the Scenes with Ben Affleck and Casey Affleck”. It shows Casey and Ben working with each other and the emotional ties that they have for the project. It is almost too short for the how powerful and thought provoking the film is. The second documentary is “Capturing Authenticity: Casting Gone Baby Gone” which is far more interesting, revealing how the cast and crew intergraded themselves into Dorchester (where the setting of the film actually took place). Plus, it showed how many of the locals were cast to give the film the authenticity that Ben Affleck and Aaron Stockard believed it needed.
There were only six deleted and extended scenes on the DVD. Often on DVD’s these scenes usually can be cut form the film. However, with ‘Gone Baby Gone’ the extended opening revealed more about the relationship between Patrick and Angie that made it a more loving relationship. If there was one thing lacking in the film it was these scenes and an omitted love making scene that solidified what kind of relationship Patrick and Angie had. What we see in the film is cold at times and problematic.
The second deleted scene probably has Angie’s most haunting line where she says, “When have I ever walked away from anything before?” That line alone needed to be in the film. After viewing it you’ll see why.
The final extended “though provoking ending” really answers questions about Patrick’s character. It is a simple voice over but one that will be missed by some and applauded by others for having it cut.
Not your normal “Mania” title but with a recent lack of big title genre films in Mania’s realm Bob has gone after a crime drama for you, the readers.