Keswick Film Club - Reviews - Gone Baby Gone

Reviews - Gone Baby Gone

Gone Baby Gone

Reviewed By John Stakes

Gone Baby Gone
Gone Baby Gone
Ben Affleck’s matinee idol looks stood him in good stead as a screen actor either side of the millennium, starring mainly in blockbusters such as ‘Armageddon’, ‘Pearl Harbor’ and ‘The Sum of all Fears’, But his career then nose-dived Footsie 100 style. So it must have been with some trepidation on his part and faith from the producers that he made his debut as a director in the film drama ‘Gone Baby Gone’ which played to another large Alhambra audience last Sunday.

Taken from the novel of the same name by Mystic River author Dennis Lehane, the film’s disturbing theme (the abduction of a four years old girl) accounts for its scheduled release date in December 2007 being deferred for six months because of the sensitivity surrounding the Madeleine McCann case. Any similarity ends there however.

The multitude of plot twists was reminiscent of Harlan Coban’s ‘Tell No-one’ shown last season. But Affleck ensured there was enough breathing space to at least ventilate (but not properly explore) the moral and legal issues which sprang from it which were set against the backdrop which is the seedy Dorchester neighbourhood of Boston. Unfortunately these issues almost outnumbered the plot twists and we were asked to consider child abduction, deficient parenting, ends justifying means and an eye for an eye whilst trying to unravel the plot. We were not helped by the fact that Affleck’s younger brother Casey who took the lead role of private investigator Patrick Kenzie and several supporting cast members lacked the necessary elocution and intonation skills (or was it just a lousy soundtrack ?) to enunciate the plot. In comparison Colin Farrell last week was a model of diction and far more enjoyable! The result was that the film unfortunately degenerated into another Hollywood formulaic exercise in manipulation and scene painting by numbers. The moral dilemma at the film’s denouement was manufactured as we were asked to believe that Kenzie’s live-in and business partner who had supported him throughout each moral choice he’d been asked to make, would suddenly dump him when he decided the child should be returned to her mother (and the matter reported to Social Services) in preference to her being brought up by complete strangers of grandparental age the husband having perpetrated a massive fraud at the point of his retirement from the police (at the risk of losing his pension for heaven’s sake) to wrest the child from her mother.

The film was however slickly directed by Affleck who showed real promise in some very tense scenes and his use of occasional silence was very effective. The acting was good particularly from Ed Harris as a cop and Amy Ryan as the mother.

The film has received a stack of US critics’ awards and praise this side of the Atlantic so perhaps this reviewer will find himself in splendid isolation. Affleck’s obvious talent as a director may soon lead to him being considered alongside such other actor/directors as Clint Eastwood and Harris himself, but on the evidence of this first outing as a director, he may well become far more firmly established behind the camera than in front of it.

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Keswick Film Club won the Best New Film Society at the British Federation Of Film Societies awards in 2000.

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