Gone Baby Gone, the 2007 directorial debut from Ben Affleck, is a masterclass in how to make a crime thriller. Starring his younger brother, Casey, Gone Baby Gone pulls no punches and rightly so. The screenplay, based on the novel of the same name by Dennis Lehane, written by Affleck and Aaron Stockard, follows Casey Affleck’s character, Private Investigator Patrick Kenzie, and his wife Angie, played by Michelle Monaghan, as they become deeply embroiled in the hunt for a missing child, Amanda McCready, in the outskirts of Boston.
There are so many things right about this film its difficult not to gush. The narrative is engaging, original and doesn’t patronise the audience by resorting to unnecessary exposition. The dialogue is culturally relevant, poignant and despite the danger of sounding trite or overly sentimental, especially with such a heavy subject matter, it manages to steer clear of being either. The cast more than delivers; Michelle Monaghan brings a softness and femininity, without being clichéd, which emotionally tethers the film; Casey Affleck manages to be credible, understated yet intense, and Morgan Freeman and Ed Harris are predictably compelling in their supporting roles. It’s important to note that even with such Hollywood stalwarts as Freeman and Harris, Ben Affleck manages to resist the temptation to unnecessarily beef up their roles, instead utilising them just as much as the narrative requires.
Gone Baby Gone really is a stonking debut. Affleck demonstrates his competency and unnatural maturity as a filmmaker from the get go. The film is heavy on plot, yet doesn’t feel rushed, and heavy on character yet the characters feel sufficiently developed. His relationship with his hometown injects tangible realism; Affleck actually used real life footage, taken whilst filming, for the opening scene. His deep-seeded connection with Boston gives the film an authenticity that many a seasoned director could only hope to achieve. It’s his Boston, his truth as he sees it, but he invites you to decide on your own truth, never preaching or dictating, just guiding the audience through the story and landscape.
This film truly gives us a glimpse at what Affleck will go onto achieve. He has an eye for filmmaking that cannot be forced. Affleck gives his characters room to breathe on screen yet constantly draws the audience in to the drama. His storytelling is void of pretension and he is not afraid to shock, but when he does it never feels gratuitous or out of place. Gone Baby Gone made the world sit up and pay attention to what Affleck can do as a filmmaker and, dare I say it, an auteur. Ben Affleck, you definitely have my attention…