Sunday, February 17, 2008

Review: Gone Baby Gone [Reviewed By Kelsey Zukowski]

Gone Baby Gone
Review By: Kelsey Zukowski
Starring: Casey Affleck, Amy Ryan, Michelle Monaghan, Morgan Freeman, Ed Harris, Titus Welliver, Amy Madigan
Directed By: Ben Affleck
Written By: Ben Affleck, Aaron Stockard
Released: 2007
Grade: A-

Gone Baby Gone is a very successful film adaptation of the novel by Dennis Lehane, which Ben Affleck says is his favorite novel. This is Ben Afflecks directorial debut in a major motion picture. His ability to take this material and transfer it with great conviction proves himself as a director and his passion of the material is shown. He also shows the Boston atmosphere accurately as he in addition to his brother, the star of the film, Casey Affleck, are both Boston born.

4-year old, Amanda McCready, has been kidnapped. The police, including Captain Jack Doyle (Freeman) are doing all they can to find her. Doyle has lost a daughter through a kidnapping as well that led to death. However, a few days after the investigation begins there are no real answers, Amanda’s aunt, Beatrice (Madigan) along with her hesitant husband, Lionel (Welliver) seek out private investigators, Patrick (Affleck) and his girlfriend, Angie (Monaghan) to help with the case. They are missing persons detectives, but they have never taken on a case this serious before. With every cop in the city looking for Amanda, Angie doubts whether they would be the ones to find her. Beatrice is persistent though, desperate to do anything she can to find her niece and Patrick agrees.

After talking with the mother, Helene (Ryan), they find out that she wasn’t exactly the model parent. She is an essential drug addict and she often took Amanda to the bar, including recently before she was abducted. Patrick and Angie begin questioning some of the people who were at this bar. He does have an edge since he isn’t a cop and therefore, perceived as one of the guys, making it easier to talk to these people. Not everyone sees him this way though. He begins working with Detective Remmy Besant (Harris). They have a suspect, Cheese, who is a local drug dealer. Patrcik says he knows he kidnapped Amanda and offers an exchange of money. He says no one ever has to know what he did. This doesn’t end well though. It takes more investigation and understanding for Patrick to realize that the guilty party may not be so far away, perhaps it is someone right in front of his very eyes.

Casey Affleck did a phenomenal job as Patrick. He does have a boyish quality to him, but that works well as at times he is perceived as young and inexperienced. By the end of the film, he has gone through so much and had to make so many life altering decisions that he loses a part of that innocence that he had. Even though, he wasn’t the main focus Morgan Freeman made for a very sympathetic cop. Even when you question his decisions and mind sets, you completely understand him. Amy Ryan was very convincing as the irresponsible mother of Amanda. There is definite questioning of whether she was deserving of Amanda. She had somewhat of a white trashy persona as someone in a rough neighborhood of Boston, overtaken by the fast life of drugs would when having a young daughter that she was responsible for. Ed Harris did a very good job as well. He had very many stages in the film and when you look at it all, he is very convincing in each one of these stages. It is not until you are able to see him at each point until his character is really clear.

One of the best things about Gone Baby Gone is that it always keeps you guessing. Some of this could be reflected on the novel, but either way it remains to be very refreshing. I would have expected for them to go through a number of struggles and then Amanda would be found. I don’t want to say anything else about the ending, but there were points where I thought it was over before it really was. If it would have ended there, I would have been surprised and it would have made an impression on me. Yet, things began to complicate even further. Situations became stickier and the right conclusion didn’t seem so clear. In the end it was very interesting and really kept your mind going.

A major theme through out the film but particularly towards the end was the moral questioning of what is right and what is wrong. I previously mentioned that Helene may not be the most suitable mother. Is it possible that Amanda may have been better off with a kidnapper? The role of the kidnapper here is complex as well. As the story progresses there is suggestion she was have been taken by someone who may have even known Amanda. It makes you more weary of who you trust. The other side of this role is that we perceive the kidnapper as evil and selfish. In some ways these traits are shown, but in a surprising way. On the other side, there is a kind and caring side that is shown. However, good intentioned, a kidnapper is still a kidnapper right? This exposes that the law may not always be the right thing. There is the question of whether you will abide by it or follow your own sense of right and wrong. Gone Baby Gone does this while still showing that an individual can believe that there are rights in both sides, just as there can be wrongs in the justices you attempt to enforce.

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