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Gone Baby Gone Movie Poster

Gone Baby Gone
Four and a Half Stars
Genre: Crime/Drama/Mystery
Rated: R
Directed by:
Ben Affleck
Casey Affleck, Michelle Monaghan, Morgan Freeman, Ed Harris, John Ashton, Amy Ryan, Amy Madigan
Released by: Miramax Pictures

In Short: This not-to-be-missed crackerjack tale of a missing girl and two local P.I.s hired to find her among the mean streets of Boston marks the impressive directorial debut of Ben Affleck.
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A Practically Perfect Crime
Hitting the Mean Streets of Boston with the Affleck Boys
by Jenny Peters

ith a series of not-so-successful acting gigs (“Gigli,” “Paycheck,” “Surviving Christmas,”) behind him, Ben Affleck decided to shift gears. Dusting off the 1997 Best Writing Academy Award he received along with Matt Damon for “Good Will Hunting,” Affleck teamed up with Aaron Stockard to adapt Gone Baby Gone, Dennis Lehane’s evocative crime novel about a child abduction that happens in a working-class Boston neighborhood.

This time, Affleck went a step further, also directing the gripping tale, a modern-day film noir that completely evokes the tough streets of the town he grew up in. Wisely, the 35-year-old decided to leave the acting to others; thus there’s no feeling of this being a vanity piece. He did keep it all in the family, casting his brother Casey in the lead role of local P. I. Patrick Kenzie, who is called in to help the cops find a 5-year-old girl who has gone missing out of her own bedroom. Casey’s performance is perfect as the neighborhood guy who is able to ferret out information from the locals that the police cannot, working the case alongside his partner (and lover) Angie Gennaro (Michelle Monaghan).

Casey Affleck in Gone Baby Gone
John Ashton, Amy Ryan and Ed Harris in Gone Baby Gone

Those cops are a formidable group, both as characters and actors. With Morgan Freeman giving one of the best performances of his career as Police Chief Jack Doyle, a man whose own child was snatched and murdered; an eye-opening Ed Harris as his top detective, a tough-as-nails transplanted Cajun; and a completely believable John Ashton as his tenacious partner, Ben Affleck proves he knows actors, and “Gone Baby Gone” was cast with just the right person in every role.

The most affecting and impressive performance in the film is that of Amy Ryan, as the abducted girl’s mother, a disgusting heroin addict and drug mule who feeds on the media attention she receives as her daughter’s case becomes national news. Top-notch, too, are Titus Welliver as her disgusted brother and Amy Madigan as his distraught wife, and the only person that really cares for little Amanda, the girl who is “Gone Baby Gone.”

Morgan Freeman, Casey Affleck and Michelle Monaghan in Gone Baby Gone
Casey Affleck, Ed Harris, Michelle Monaghan and John Ashton in Gone Baby Gone

What sets this story apart from a typical crime thriller are the densely-layered personal relationships and searing characterizations that jump off the screen, the powerful moral dilemmas that the detectives encounter along the way and an extremely clever plot that keeps viewers gripped until the final unsettling frames unspool.

“Gone Baby Gone” is truly a classic in the genre, and one worthy of the same accolades that two other recent Boston-based crime films—“The Departed” and “Mystic River” (also based on a Lehane novel)—have received in past. Expect Oscar nominations for this one, too, and perhaps some key wins.

Who knew Ben Affleck had this much talent waiting to blossom?

(Updated 09/08/09 AJR)

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