Anyone who knows me, knows that I am no huge fan of Ben Affleck. As an actor, I find his performances contrived – it’s almost as if you can read the last words from the director on his face: “Run scared!” “Look concerned!” “Be sad!” “Grin like an idiot and kiss her!” Ugh. So not impressive. I’ve put up with several of his films (Chasing Amy, Armageddon, Shakespeare in Love, Forces of Nature, The Sum of all Fears, Daredevil) and I always walk away wondering if the movie would’ve been better had he not been in it, because when Ben is in a film you see BEN AFFLECK… not his character.
Turns out, the movies probably would’ve been better if Ben had just gotten behind the camera instead of in front of it.
We all know Ben can write – I mean, Hello! He co-wrote Good Will Hunting and that was a good movie! I didn’t even mind him in it, but perhaps that was because he didn’t really show up on screen all that much and he’s not so bad as a “thinks-I’m-a-badass-Boston-bar-trash-talker.” In either case, when I found out that Ben wrote the screenplay for Gone Baby Gone and directed the film, I was curious to see it. I wanted to know if I could find some redeemable quality about him to like, other than the fact that he married smart (the awesome Jennifer Garner) and had a very pretty little baby girl.
What a find! Gone Baby Gone is a brilliant film. Once again in Boston, Ben’s little brother Casey Affleck handles the screentime well. Patrick Kenzie (Casey) and Angie Gennaro (Michelle Monaghan) are two local private investigators hired by an aunt to find her sister-in-law’s missing child. The mother is a crackhead (literally) and the aunt is controlling and a little pushy. Her husband (the mother’s brother) is a seemingly sympathetic dolt with bad facial hair, but you really hate him at the end. Extra goodness gets stirred in with Morgan Freeman and Ed Harris as cops.
Not only was the movie well-written, the directing was pretty great too… The shots were well composed and all of the scenes worked well. Some were so dark (interior of houses) that you almost wondered if someone just forgot to turn on a light, but it fit the mood and the intensity of the film. At almost two hours long, it would have been extremely easy to turn this into another film that dragged on, causing the audience to lose interest. But a combination of the story and the directing keep you engaged, even when you think that the story might be over yet the film continues. And the ending is brilliant. I love a film that makes you pay attention all the way to the end, and that gives you something to think about after the credits are over.
Gone Baby Gone leaves your brain to wonder what you might do if faced with a decision that makes you weigh human morals against what’s legal. Which wins? Which is right, in the end? Would you make the same decision, or a different one? Would either outcome have been acceptable? [Yummy brain food!]
My final call? Ben Affleck as an actor? Eh. Ben Affleck as a director? Yes!