a critiQal film review Gone Baby Gone (2007)

  • DVD
  • Blu-Ray

Plot: Patrick (Affleck) and his girlfriend (Monaghan) are private investigators. They are called in by a neighbor to help search for a young girl in their Boston neighborhood that has gone missing. But, the closer they get to finding the girl, the more they discover that nothing is as it seems. In the end, they will have to risk everything if they want to bring this little girl back home to her mother.

954 words (Est. Reading Time 4m 46s)

We had heard a little about Gone Baby Gone when it was released last October, but hadn’t gotten around to checking it out in theaters. With the recent Awards hype, Gone Baby Gone again popped up, with Casey Affleck and Amy Ryan both nominated for Golden Globes® and Amy also nominated for an Academy Award®. Since it was on our minds, we moved it up our queue at blockbuster.com, wanting to see if the buzz was worth it.

Casey Affleck, normally a bit player in films, gets his first chance at center stage in Gone Baby Gone and does a great job with it. Under his brother’s direction, he weaves together a performance that is able to stand next to performances by old hands Ed Harris and Morgan Freeman and manage to hold it’s own. It may be partly due to his brother being able to coax a better performance out of him, but then again, it may be that he is leading man material, and it took his brother to give him his first shot. It will be interesting to see which theory proves out in Casey’s future films.

The rest of the cast is varied between eastablished actors (Freeman and Harris) and up-and-comers like Casey (Amy Ryan). ‘s Michelle Monaghan also appears to be starting her post-Hunt film career, and even John Ashton (Beverly Hills Cop‘s Taggert) has a meaty role in Gone Baby Gone.

The greatly varied cast of Gone Baby Gone do a good job of performing up to their past abilities. The only exception to this comes with Michelle Monaghan, who seems a lot less believable in Gone Baby Gone than in . While Harris, Freeman, Ryan and even Ashton turn in very good performances, Monaghan falters a bit with her character – but it may not be entirely her fault.

The major fault in Monaghan’s character lies with her seemingly one-sided relationship with Casey Affleck’s character. Supposedly, the two of them have been dating long enough to set up their own PI agency, yet throughout the course of the film, Monaghan’s character does very little to show she wants anything to do with Casey, much less is actually in love his character. Instead, her role seems to be reluctant business partner.

From the start, she’s against getting involved in the case, and Casey’s Patrick has to cajole her in to even talking to any of the characters involved. Of course, some might point out that this may be a bit of foreshadowing for the events that strain their relationship further in the film, so may put this down to “woman’s intuition” or something similar, but it doesn’t come off that way in the film. Instead, her character comes off as a bit whiny and wholly unsupportive of Patrick at any point. Maybe that’s a fault by Ben Affleck (since this is his first directing gig), but whatever the reasons behind it, it’s definitely the biggest fault of the film.

The story behind Gone Baby Gone has no faults, however, and is a gripping tale of morality. Rather than just being about a kidnapping, the film instead is more of one man’s journey through a series of events. When forced into situations with highly questionable morality, he must decided what “the right thing to do” actually is – and live with the consequences. That’s Gone Baby Gone at it’s heart, and the kidnapping and all the rest are merely the path.

Whenever a film like this one gets viewers to question what they would do in the same situation, it’s got to get high marks. After all, that means the film has set up both options clearly, and has generated enough interest within the viewer for them to be concerned with how the events turn out. With any good film, the viewer connects with the actors enough so that the viewer actually cares what happens to them, so when the actors are faced with no clear right or wrong answer – and consequences await either choice – the viewer finds him or herself in the same quandry as the actors.

In Gone Baby Gone, the viewers originally get involved by their concerns for a young kidnap victim. As the film progresses, however, they are drawn further into Patrick’s journey through the events. When Patrick finally faces a few morality dillemmas, the viewer is almost caught off-guard, as they have now become totally involved in the film almost without realizing it. The film never answers whether Patrick makes the right decisions, and instead leaves viewers with an ambiguous ending that will keep them wondering what the right answers would be long after the movie has ended. A good choice, as this leaves the viewers with a lot more to think about than if the film had wrapped up neatly.

With a great cast stepping up to the plate and a very involving storyline that will keep the viewer thinking about it long after the film, Gone Baby Gone is a win for both Affleck brothers. For Ben, it shows he has what it takes to step behind the cameras rather than in front of them, while Casey shows he has real potential to be the leading man in front of those cameras. If these two stick together in their new positions, chances are we’re in for some decent films in the future.

The re-view factor may be not so great – as most kidnapping movies tend to lack in this area after the viewer already knows what happens – but watching for foreshadowing prior to the morality questions may be a reason to give Gone Baby Gone another run through. Either way, it’s definitely worth at least a first look.

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