Starring: Casey Affleck, Michelle Monaghan, Morgan Freeman
Director: Ben Affleck
Running Time: 114 mins
Gone Baby Gone is an American film about a pair of private investigators who are hired to look into the kidnapping of a young girl in a poor neighbourhood of Boston, however the stakes of the investigation lead them into crisis.
Although I wasn’t completely blown away by Gone Baby Gone, it is a film with good slow-burn drama that, while not immensely enthralling at first, grows into a riveting and very complex watch towards the tail end, furthered by Ben Affleck’s passionate and atmopsheric directing, as well as a host of very strong performances in the lead roles.
First off, I felt that Ben Affleck’s directing here was very affecting right from the start. While the story takes a little bit of an up-and-down route to an ultimately impressive conclusion, what’s most interesting and striking about the film is the way in which Affleck portrays the poorer neighbourhoods of Boston, and creates a strongly impressive atmosphere around exactly that.
In similar fashion to his later work The Town, Affleck puts forward a frank and gritty depiction of the area, but it’s shown with such strong authenticity and passion, delving into the whole socio-economic background of the locale as well as using it to create a strongly unsettling and gritty atmosphere that works well in the context of the film’s crime story.
In fact, the ways in which the film looks at the nature of poverty and crime in the local area is by far its most interesting suit in the opening two acts. In tandem with the drama of the kidnapping in the first act, it’s a riveting watch that lends real depth to the story at hand, and even when the story takes a little bit of a dive in the middle act, that overbearing atmosphere created by the setting remains strong throughout.
My issue with the film comes in the form of that middle act, which really takes away from the clear potential of what is a very good story. The opening act balances the film’s nature as both a thriller and a social drama really well, however after a turn in the story about a third of the way through, both fall away to a rather significant degree, with the focus being shifted to the ever-intensifying personal crisis faced by Casey Affleck’s character.
Of course, having personal drama and emotion there is always impressive, but due to the film’s slower pacing from the beginning, that middle act doesn’t feel meaty enough to really enthrall you to the same degree as the opening act, leaving me a little frustrated for the best part of half an hour.
With that said, the way in which the film turns once again in the final act is really incredible. While I was losing faith and deep interest in the story over the course of the less-than-stellar middle portion, the beginning of the third act introduces a deeply emotional and intriguing element to the story, with a powerful moral dilemma that comes out of seemingly nowhere, and yet grabs you with stunning power that lasts right to the end.
It’s not quite enough to completely overturn some of the film’s flaws from earlier on, however the finale to the film proves one of the most striking and memorable I’ve seen in a long while, and is certainly worth waiting for come the end.
Overall, I was impressed in the end with Gone Baby Gone. Strong at the start and very strong at the end, it’s an engaging watch all round, despite its somewhat underwhelming central portion. However, with very passionate and striking direction from Ben Affleck working beautifully in tandem with a story that’s filled with emotion, tension, dark crime and social drama, it’s a film that’s ultimately worth your time, and that’s why I’m giving it a 7.4.