Gone Baby Gone
February 21, 2008
After the very public dissolution of his relationship with Jennifer Lopez and the critical and commercial flop of their film Gigli (2003), Ben Affleck wisely adopted a low profile, taking on modest character roles in films like Hollywoodland (2006) and Smokin’ Aces (2006) and decided to go behind the camera, directing his first feature film, Gone Baby Gone (2007). Affleck plays to his strengths by making it in his hometown of Boston and casting his little brother Casey in the lead role.
When a woman’s little girl disappears, the mother’s aunt (Madigan) hires Patrick Kenzie (Affleck) and Angie Gennaro (Monaghan), two local private investigators who specialize in missing persons cases, to canvass the neighbourhood and talk to people who don’t talk to the police. They do some initial digging and talk with the two detectives (Ashton and Harris) in charge of the investigation. They find out that the mother (Ryan) is a cocaine addict and frequented a bar with her daughter near where she went missing. All sorts of secrets are revealed as the plot thickens and Patrick finds himself being drawn deeper into the case.
Along with The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (2007), Casey Affleck finally moves into the spotlight with these two high profile film roles. He demonstrates what a good investigator Patrick is by the way he interacts with people, gaining their confidence and trust with an unassuming, easy-going nature. Affleck brings a perceptive intelligence to the role. Patrick is a cool customer who knows how to talk his way out of tense situations. Affleck also has a quiet intensity and an affable charm which is always interesting to watch.
Ben Affleck keeps things close to home for his first directorial effort. He doesn’t try to write something original but adapt an existing novel by Dennis Lehane who also wrote Mystic River, another Boston-based mystery. By setting the film in Boston, Affleck uses his intimate knowledge of its places and its people to give an authenticity to the little details of the story. He provides local colour by casting people who look and act the part. He is also smart with his direction. Affleck doesn’t try to get too fancy with camera angles or movements and remembers that the story is the most important thing. The fact that he respects the story makes him a good storyteller. Affleck draws us in with an intriguing premise and then lets the story do its thing.
Affleck has done an excellent job and has gotten really good performances out of the entire cast. If he ever decides to give up acting, he’ll have a promising career as a director. Like Mystic River (2003), Gone Baby Gone wrestles with a complicated moral dilemma and leaves it up to us to decide if the right decision was made by the protagonist.
“Going Home: Behind the Scenes with Ben Affleck” takes a look at Affleck’s approach to making the film. Dennis Lehane and co-screenwriter Aaron Stockard talk briefly about adapting the book. The film’s themes are mentioned and what they mean to those involved.
Also included are six deleted with optional commentary by director and co-screenwriter Ben Affleck and screenwriter Aaron Stockard. There is a longer version of the opening credits sequence that shows Patrick and Angie at work and establishes their skill as investigators. There is a little more about Angie’s past and we also see the intimacy of their relationship. Affleck talks about why this footage was cut.
“Capturing Authenticity: Casting Gone Baby Gone.” Affleck shot in real communities and cast the people who lived there as extras. He talks about casting his brother in the film and what he brought to the role. Other key cast members talk about what drew them to the film.
Finally, there is an audio commentary by Affleck and Stockard. Affleck points out that the opening credits sequence, with its shots of actual people who lived in the neighbourhood, sets the tone for the rest of the film. He wanted a realistic look with no stylish filters, camerawork, etc. Naturally, they talk about adapting the novel and what kind of things they chose to put in the film. There are several lulls in the commentary but when Affleck does speak (and he tends to dominate), he imparts plenty of information and filming anecdotes.