Numerous articles have been written over the years criticizing Ben Affleck’s poor choices pertaining to his acting career. Google Gigli if you care to sample some slams. But Affleck’s Gone, Baby, Gone should temporarily reverse the negative flow of copy for it finds the first-time filmmaker making a number of intelligent decision from the director’s hot seat.
His best decision comes early. By adapting novelist Dennis Lehane’s Boston-based thriller, Affleck commits to material that fits him like a glove. Affleck adores his hometown — warts and all — and Gone becomes as much an ode to the city as Lehane intended.
The Gone plot details a bleak search for a kidnapped child. The little girl’s family hires private eyes Patrick Kenzie (Casey Affleck) and Angie Gennaro (Michelle Monaghan) to augment the official investigation. As the couple digs around, John Toll’s cinematography emphasizes the city’s grimy underbelly and Lehane’s story gets progressively dirtier the deeper we go.
Recognizable cast members come prepared. Morgan Freeman gives a restrained turn as Jack Doyle, the police captain who still aches after losing his own little girl. An impassioned Ed Harris joins John Ashton as the cops assigned to the case. And Gone marks another step in the maturation of Casey as a leading man.
But brother Ben’s casting goes beyond the support staff nailing their accents (though most do). The actors embody that standoffish, underdog mindset that many Bostonians cling to with pride. You get the impression that Affleck recruited actors for characters named Cheese, Big Dave, and Skinny Ray in actual Boston watering holes, and the men went right back to their bar stools when filming wrapped for the day.
Ben’s style as a director appears to be a conscientious lack of one. He sidesteps attention-seeking camera techniques that could overshadow his riveting screenplay (he shares credit with Aaron Stockard). With wise choices and more than a little casting help, Ben competently directs the barebones Baby to its bitter end and delivers a taut and dangerous adaptation that adds his own blend of local flavor to Lehane’s novel.
The DVD includes deleted scenes (and extended/alternate opening and ending), commentary from Affleck and Stockard, and two making-of featurettes.
Baby you’re gonna miss that plane.