BY PATRICIA DRAZNIN
Based on the novel by Dennis Lehane (Mystic River), Gone Baby Gone takes us to a tough crime-ridden neighborhood in South Boston where a little girl named Amanda has been kidnapped. The police have failed to uncover any clues. And it’s common knowledge that the chances of recovering an abducted child are lowered with each passing hour.
Amanda’s Aunt Beatrice (Amy Madigan) seeks the help of Angie and Patrick, a detective duo played by Michelle Monaghan and the incredible Casey Affleck. As members of the South Boston community, the young sleuths have something to offer: they know the streets and neighbors, the pimps and whores, the dealers and users. And better than the Boston P.D., they know how to get them to open up and talk.
Of the talented cast that includes Morgan Freeman, Ed Harris, and Amy Ryan (as Amanda’s troubled mom), Monaghan is the least potent on camera. But never mind. Casey Affleck’s performance is strong enough for both of them. The film is darn near perfect. And Affleck would be reason enough to see it.
The other reason is the fine production. Partnering with lifelong Boston pal Aaron Stockard, Ben Affleck labored to condense a 450-page novel into a two-hour script. Last time Affleck co-wrote a screenplay (Good Will Hunting), he and Matt Damon won an Oscar. And here in his first adapted screenplay, he crafts dialogue that is measured, real, and trimmed to the core for concise understatement.
After completing the script, Affleck’s vision of the film was so clear that he decided to try his hand at directing. That decision was a coup. Affleck brought the story right to his native streets of Boston, included some locals, and cast his Boston brother in the lead. No one could have staged this film with more authenticity. Or more intimacy. Ben Affleck, you rule. Stationed behind the camera, you have found your power post. You are the reason for us to see your next film.
This stunning and unpredictable drama is full of intelligent surprises—not just visceral suspense but dilemmas that make us question and think. Be prepared to journey down some uncharted roads, and not just through Dorchester, Massachusetts. This is an unconventional exploration of what’s good and right and the consequences of our actions. Gone Baby Gone will send you home asking yourself serious questions that you may not be able to answer. Questions that will plague you for a long time to come, long after you can recall the names of the other films you saw this year. A+