Gone Baby Gone is a sterling thriller, the kind of raw cinematic power that you tell your friends about as if you’ve just been put through the spin cycle. Helmed by first-time director Ben Affleck, and starring his brother, Casey, the film scorches a raw nerve from frame one and never lets up. This is a fine example of the kind of morality tale viewers won’t soon forget, and that will work to the film’s advantage for some time to come.
We’re thrown right into the mix from the outset. Young Amanda McCready (Madeline O’Brien) has been kidnapped. The Boston Police Department is frantically searching for her, and her relatives, Beatrice (Amy Madigan) and Lionel (Titus Welliver), are pushing all the buttons that they can. Amanda’s mother, Helene (Ryan), seems strangely disconnected from the whole situation. Out of desperation and working against the clock, Beatrice and Lionel approach Patrick Kenzie (Affleck) and his partner, Angie Gennaro (Monaghan), to supplement the investigation. The two are private investigators who have no clue what they’ve gotten themselves into, and the twists run deep.
To elaborate would be criminal. Gone Baby Gone is best viewed with as little prior knowledge as possible. What makes the film work so well is director Affleck’s pacing. He knows this is compelling material on its own (the screenplay has been adapted from Dennis Lehane’s novel of the same name), but he also knows how to work an audience for maximum effect. The twists are plentiful, but never feel cheap. Affleck never hesitates when it comes to jarring us, whether it is audibly or visually. Silence is used to perfection, as he knows that it’s the key ingredient to suspenseful filmmaking.
Casey Affleck, who has been in a wide range of Indie films over the years, gets his true breakout role here. Patrick Kenzie is a very complex character; one who knows how to be tough when need be, most definitely has a way with words, and a guy who has as tender of heart as anyone. Affleck nails every scene, and his final moments in the film are as touching as any I’ve seen this year. The supporting cast is superb, particularly Ed Harris in one of the best roles of his career as the distraught Detective Remy Bressant. Morgan Freeman and Amy Madigan are effective in more limited roles and Michelle Monaghan, while not given a whole lot to do, makes the most of it. Amy Ryan is also a standout as the distressed, and often drugged, Helene.
Drama and suspense fans can finally rejoice as they are really arriving full throttle this Fall. Ben Affleck has turned in a stunning debut with Gone Baby Gone and it will undoubtedly launch a second career for him behind the camera. Much has been made about the film’s conclusion, and for good reason. There is a morality issue that can be discussed for hours at the forefront of the film, and it feels refreshing to leave the theater with a little food for thought.
Studio: Miramax Films
Length: 114 Minutes
Rating: R for violence, drug content and pervasive language.
Theatrical Release: October 19, 2007
Directed by: Ben Affleck
Written by: Ben Affleck & Aaron Stockard. Based upon the novel by Dennis Lehane.
Cast: Casey Affleck, Michelle Monaghan, Morgan Freeman, Ed Harris, John Ashton, Amy Ryan