Last week, I mentioned a few of the key players that stole all of the 2007 spotlight for themselves, and tried to return some of that light to Michael Clayton. This week, I’d like to spread a little more of that out with Ben Affleck’s directorial debut, Gone Baby Gone.
Now first, a brief note. There are some serious allegations against both director Ben Affleck and star Casey Affleck. I won’t pretend to know much of the minutiae of these stories either, but I’m on the side of believing the women before wanting to protect celebrities. This piece isn’t intended to be a take on either of these men, but simply a reflection on the landscape of cinema from a decade ago.
Gone Baby Gone begins pretty quickly in Boston with the abduction of a child and the investigation into the matter. Patrick (Casey Affleck) is private investigator with his girlfriend and partner, Angie (Michelle Monaghan). They see Helene (Amy Ryan) on television pleading for help in the search for her daughter, Amanda. The child’s aunt hires Patrick and Angie to help find Amanda, and Patrick accepts thinking that he has connections with people who are typically unwilling to talk to the police. He finds out that Helene and her boyfriend are drug mules for a Haitian gang, and that they had stolen $130,000 from the gang and were hiding it. Patrick and Angie join up with Detective Remy Brassant (Ed Harris) in order to get to the bottom of things. If you’ve ever seen a movie literally ever, you know that things don’t go all that smoothly.
I’d rather not go too much further into the plot, because there are some unexpected turns in the investigation that I’d love to save for you, assuming you haven’t read the Dennis Lehane novel that Gone Baby Gone is based on.
I know that Argo got all of the attention (and I’m guilty of that too, considering I’m only just now seeing THIS film), but Gone Baby Gone is the strongest work we have seen from Ben Affleck behind the camera. I loved Argo (even though I haven’t seen it since theaters five years ago), but his debut is absolutely the best film he has directed to date. Gone Baby Gone is not only a much smarter and more subtle film, it’s an incredibly well-paced morality play with no easy answers. He may have fallen off in terms of his work (I didn’t think Live By Night was bad, but it wasn’t all that good either), but this is still something to be held on to.
I don’t want to take anything away from Casey Affleck’s lead performance or the Academy Award nominated turn from Amy Ryan (who went on to lose to Michael Clayton‘s Tilda Swinton), but they are competing for third place when it comes to the performances in this film. Michelle Monaghan is the entire reason that the morality question in the second half of the film works. The question is raised in a scene without her, but her performance is what truly sells the dilemma.
The other key performance is the supporting role from the always wonderful and criminally underrated Ed Harris. Think of a movie. It probably has Ed Harris in some aspect. Now think of his performance in that film. He was amazing, right? I know, that’s his thing.
I didn’t even mention that Morgan Freeman has a small role. You like Morgan Freeman? Add that to the pile of reasons you should give this a look.
There’s definitely a tone running through the prominent films of 2007 that ties them all together. There Will Be Blood. No Country For Old Men. Zodiac. This feeling is also present in Michael Clayton and Gone Baby Gone. While I don’t believe either of those films are better than the first three mentioned, I absolutely think that they belong in that conversation.
Gone Baby Gone is currently available to stream on Netflix US.
What do you think the masterpieces of 2017 will be when we look back at this year? What will be the unsung favorites? Let me know your predictions wherever you so please!