Ben Affleck’s directorial debut!
Screenplay By: Ben Affleck & Aaron Stockard
Directed By: Ben Affleck
The idea of right versus wrong isn’t anything new to storytelling, nor is the moral questioning proposed in Gone Baby Gone. Right versus wrong will always be a staple of storytelling, no matter how many years pass us by. Gone Baby Gone doesn’t put a new spin on this issue but it does ask the question in such a way that doesn’t leave a correct answer. I have heard people argue that there is definitely a right answer in Gone Baby Gone, that there has to be a line where cops don’t have ultimate power. This tact leaves out the most important part of the story, it doesn’t matter that the perpetrators of justice are cops. Gone Baby Gone isn’t asking about the actions of cops, it is asking about the actions of humanity. Do we have the right to condemn a mother and declare that no matter what she will never change? Are we really doing the right thing if we take away her child and transport the child to a “better” life? There isn’t a correct answer to any of the questions posed in Gone Baby Gone, because no matter which path you choose it could have serious ramifications for everyone involved.
There are some moments in Gone Baby Gone where Ben Affleck’s camera is a little too stagnant for my tastes, but otherwise in his debut he shows great promise as a director. He is at his best when filming intimate scenes, he knows how to capture the characters in their most real state. I also like the way he chose to weave in the mystery elements, the somewhat telling flashbacks worked for me. I’ve never been averse to Ben Affleck the actor like others have, but if he does choose to focus on mainly behind the camera work then I can safely say I look forward to what he does next.
I am a big fan of The Office, it is through that show that I discovered Amy Ryan. Other fans told me that she was amazing in Gone Baby Gone, but nothing they told me could have prepared me for the transformation in character she undergoes. Ryan is raw, dirty, very despicable, hard to sympathize with yet at the same time possessing of some obvious love for her daughter. In a film that contained some good performances she was heads and shoulders above the rest, inhabiting her role to the fullest.
Of the rest of the cast Casey Affleck had the meatiest part and he was the focal point for most of the story. I don’t know if Casey Affleck will ever be a Hollywood leading man type, because in this role he showed that despite being the lead he still has a low key quality to him that comes across as more of a character actor than a lead. It’s not a bad quality, his performance was very good after all, but I can see his ability to fall into his roles as a hindrance in many leading man parts. The rest of the cast were up to their parts, Ed Harris, John Ashton, Michelle Monaghan and the locally flavored neighborhood cast were all good or at the very least workman like. The only performance that wasn’t notable was that of Morgan Freeman. There wasn’t anything bad about his performance, but we have seen it before, numerous times. Freeman has played the wise old man so many times now that he needs to do a harder type role to put some spice back into his acting career.
Gone Baby Gone is a well crafted thriller. The mystery hinges on some coincidence, but coincidence has long been a standard of the mystery story. That is what makes these stories and not real life, in the real world the stories never get this far because of the lack of helpful characters, coincidences or random chance. In Gone Baby Gone the mystery is laid out for us to see from the start, little hints are dropped all the time. Ben Affleck never focuses on these hints with his camera, it is only later after major reveals have happened that we can look back and realize just how much of the mystery was there for us to see if we had only opened our eyes.
An impressive debut from Ben Affleck behind the camera, another good performance from brother Casey, a standout performance from Amy Ryan and a well crafted thriller mystery. Those are the factors that should draw you to Gone Baby Gone, there are plenty of mystery thrillers out there, but there aren’t that many that are crafted as well as Gone Baby Gone.