GONE BABY GONE
When four year old Amanda McReady (Madeline O'Brien) is kidnapped in the tough Dorchester district of Boston, private investigator couple Patrick Kenzie (Casey Affleck) and Angela Gennaro (Michelle Monaghan) at first refuse the case, until the girl's aunt pleads with them to work alongside the police. Police Captain Jack Doyle (Morgan Freeman) is none too happy, but he assigns Detectives Remy Bressant (Ed Harris) and Nick Poole (John Ashton) to the case, to work with the young couple. Amanda's mother Helene (Amy Ryan) is a drug user and runner, whose theft of a large amount of drug money from drug boss Cheese (Edi Gathegi) sets off a series of dramatic events that are tied to the kidnap, and perhaps the death of the little girl. And as he learns the truth, Patrick has to make a moral decision that puts his own relationship with Angela at risk.
Review by Louise Keller:
It's what you don't chose that makes you who you are, Casey Affleck's missing persons PI says in this troubling story about conscience. Gone Baby Gone is a fascinating film in many ways. Based on Dennis Lehane's novel about the abduction of a little girl, the initial premise is reminiscent of the highly publicised, as yet (at time of writing) unsolved mystery of little Madeleine McCann, who disappeared from her bed in a Portuguese holiday resort. But that is where the similarity ends - as far as we know. The film is the first serious foray into directing by Ben Affleck (apart from a little known 1993 comedy short), who reinforces his creative talents by good storytelling and dense mood establishment. Brother Casey Affleck, who threatens to overshadow his sibling in the acting department, is impressive in this defining role as a private eye who becomes consumed professionally and personally by the case.
The first half of the film concentrates on the investigation into Amanda's (Madeline O'Brien) disappearance by Affleck's Patrick McKenzie, police chief Jack Doyle (Morgan Freeman) and investigating police officers Remy Bressant (Ed Harris) and Nick Poole (John Ashton). The truth is far from pretty as we discover troubling and unsavoury facts about the girl's drug-addicted mother Helene (Amy Ryan) and surrounding circumstances. Patrick and his partner Angie Gennaro (Michelle Monaghan) quickly show their forte is their connection with the neighbourhood locals, who are a seedy lot (whose lingo and delivery is so authentic that at times almost undecipherable). Everything about the scene feels dirty, and we become involved in the various relationships. When a second child disappears, the emotional core of the film escalates considerably. Lies, regrets and justification of taking the law into one's own hands become contentious issues as the film heads towards its third and devastating act.
Performances are all strong with Ryan daring to make Amanda's mother repulsive, Harris and Freeman anchoring heavily in the gravitas stakes and Monaghan expresses emotional chasms with economy. The topic is confronting and unsettling and Affleck's handling of this potent drama is superb. The film offers no easy solutions and the experience is riveting.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
First, let's get the Madeleine McCain matter out of the way: Dennis Lehane published his novel in 2003, well before the world famous missing McCain girl case of 2007 which took place in Portugal. The similarities end at the missing girl's age (4); the trivia that a young actress called Madeline plays Amanda in this film is just that. Trivia.
Lehane is also the author of Mystic River, another highly acclaimed drama adapted for the screen, and so it's no surprise that Gone Baby Gone is a rich, gripping and superbly crafted story. It is, however, a surprise that Ben Affleck directs it so well, considering the complexity and character demands of the work. Surprising only because Affleck is not yet a noted director - but now he may will be. This is his first feature, and follows a comedy short made in 1993. It's also worth noting that his casting younger brother Casey Affleck in the lead role is not mere brotherly love. Casey is a terrific young actor, and Australians will have a chance to confirm this opinion twice within a few months, first in The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (playing Ford) then this.
Gone Baby Gone is a punchy, layered film that hides its literary origins - in the best possible way. But it also use of the developed characters and complex story that is the novel - in the best possible way. Casey Affleck and Michelle Monaghan make a great couple whose relationship is glued onto their work as private investigators specialising in missing persons. Affleck's toughness, hidden under a naïve, youthful exterior, blends with his moral certitude, a belief in doing the right thing. He transgresses his own moral code once and regrets it - and once he doesn't transgress it, but also comes to regret it.
The twists in the story make for engaging viewing, and performances from all the cast are outstanding, notably Ed Harris as the hard nosed detective who is full of surprises. But so are most of the characters, from Morgan Freeman's Police Captain to Edi Gathegi's drug lord, Cheese. Cinemas showing this film could safely hang a sign out front, saying 'Nothing predictable screened here'.
Like so many films that resonate with us for long after the end credits, Gone Baby Gone confronts the audience with a couple of moral choices - choices seen through Patrick's eyes - that invite our participation in the film's deep recesses of rights and wrongs.
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GONE BABY GONE (MA)
CAST: Casey Affleck, Michelle Monaghan, Morgan Freeman, Ed Harris, John Ashton, Amy Ryan, Amy Madigan, Titus Welliver, Michael K. Williams, Edi Gathegi, Mark Margolis
PRODUCER: Ben Affleck, Alan Ladd jr, Danton Rissner, Sean Bailey
DIRECTOR: Ben Affleck
SCRIPT: Ben Affleck, Aaron Stockard (novel by Dennis Lehane)
CINEMATOGRAPHER: John Toll
EDITOR: William Goldenberg
MUSIC: Harry Gregson-Williams
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Sharon Seymour
RUNNING TIME: 114 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Walt Disney Studios
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: April 17, 2008
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