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Gap-toothed Maladies in Ben Affleck’s Gone Baby Gone (2007) December 11, 2007

Posted by Richard Bolisay in Hollywood, Literature.

Directed by Ben Affleck
Cast: Casey Affleck, Michelle Monaghan, Ed Harris, Morgan Freeman, Amy Ryan
Based on Dennis Lehane’s novel

That shocking cliff sequence — shot with utmost messianic precision, like a prized diamond cut into a beautiful piece of gem, a bellow that reverberates endlessly, looming before we could open our eyes to see where those bullets are coming from, and though it harbors a feeling of relentless fear it also summons an overflow of excitement, not in the strictest sense as we care so much for baby Amanda to be safe, and before we realize that Angie has jumped from the quarry, there is a certain attack of remorse, of cunning panic, as if everything just depends on one thing, and from there it pinches without any slightest tingle of pain, and we’re numb — sustains its power up to the very end, riveting, pulsating, annihilating, largely an estimation of forsaken self, as if this film has atoned Ben Affleck for all of his sins, and what could be more impelling than a fireball brother at his side to watch it unfolds.

Boston breathes with sublime fear. But unlike Scorsese’s New York, the fear is somewhat odd — it’s real and it’s there, out there, about to grab someone without any hint of hesitation. As it speaks of morality, we are startled by its real ambivalence. Real or true — we never know what exactly is the difference.

Gone Baby Gone, aside from being Ben Affleck’s directorial debut, is also Casey Affleck’s moment of utter greatness. He is unmistakably a charmer but behind those features that resemble his brother very much, he shows a masterly control of his craft that is impossible not to notice. His sharpness evokes a sense of youthful angst which to some extent makes him a bit astute. But only having seen him in the trailer of The Assassination of Jesse James, I am overwhelmed by so much power he has in his self, by the undermining presence he has every time he speaks, and by his Machiavellian ability to win us over. In a sudden embrace of cold, I am earnestly looking forward to his words, to his narration, as if it’s the most affecting thing that he could do. Baffling — is the word, I guess.

Directing saves Ben Affleck from those falling dominoes of disappointment that are about to cave in; he proves how he could manage to deliver a film that would not only earn him praise but also comparison to better-known directors like Clint Eastwood and Martin Scorsese — and with sincere honesty, I think he deserves it. Of course there are numerous loopholes and strayed religious reference but those things are forgivable — we do not expect to see something that will nail us down and blow us away — but in any case, Gone Baby Gone simply is superb.

Twice or thrice the film seems to threaten its closure, but we are deceived. This may appear to be Affleck’s intention in terms of pacing his narrative because he religiously does so. Patrick’s crucial decision to abide by his morals, his insistence to his self-assuring righteousness, and his institutionalised idealism finally break off — contrary to Ed Harris’s manic rigour which he delivers with remarkable strength, Casey here reminds me of a placid sea about to encounter a tsunami, his startling devotion to his ideals which turns out to be a social misnomer for innocent blindness — and strangle us until we recognize that it’s asphyxia. There is a significant allusion to Harlan Ellison’s depressing short, Shattered Like A Glass Goblin, which makes me realize that missing kids aren’t really missing — they are drugged, they are tortured, and they are dead. The idea chills with blood and reality. And it seems that at this moment, I just love rooftops. * * * *



1. estherbintliff - June 1, 2008

nice review. ‘a prized diamond cut into a beautiful piece of gem’ is great. the film’s out in the UK soon and I can’t wait.

2. Richard Bolisay - June 2, 2008

hi, thanks. in DVD or in cinemas? it came out here late last year.

3. Jayclops - March 4, 2009

And that “sublime fear” is embodied by Amy Ryan. Weren’t she just great in this one?

4. Richard Bolisay - March 4, 2009

Yeah, she was, manic and awesome, but it was Tilda she was up against. That weird girl that I love. Hehe.

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