There are some movies that leave you engrossed throughout and leave you breathless by the time the end credits roll. Gone Baby Gone is one such film, which starts out at a nice gentle pace and slowly pushes itself forward into a gripping center and an ending that leaves you struggling to decide if it’s what you wanted or if it absolutely ticks you off to no end. Gone Baby Gone excels in so many aspects and it makes for such a complex and intricate script that it’s hard not to become instantly drawn into the Boston world drawn before us.
Adapted for the screen and directed by Ben Affleck, Gone Baby Gone marks Affleck’s feature length directorial debut and boy is it ever a doozy. With his brother, Casey Affleck, in the lead, the film generated plenty of press from their involvement alone. It quickly became evident, however, that it wasn’t just the brothers Affleck that carried the film—its entire cast and script were so strong that it became one of 2007s strongest films. When a little girl is kidnapped from her home, Patrick Kenzie (Casey Affleck) and Angie Gennaro (Michelle Monaghan) are brought in to aid the police in their search. What Patrick and Angie didn’t realize when they took the case, however, is that what they’d eventually find goes much deeper than a mere kidnapping.
Coming from the same book series as 2003’s Mystic River you knew that Gone Baby Gone was already going to be one a strong film from the start but considering it was Affleck’s directorial debut there was always some trepidation. Sure we’ve seen him act before, but directing is a whole other beast, but I think what made Affleck so comfortable in the position was filming the film in his native home of Boston. Feeling right at home with the area, Affleck was able to unleash some truly authentic and moving cinema on us, both with the gritty visuals as well as the acting from his terrific cast of Morgan Freeman, Ed Harris and the aforementioned Casey Affleck and Michelle Monaghan.
While the film was certainly laden with profanity (on the commentary Affleck joked that there were over two hundred swears dropped through the course of the film—I don’t really doubt that number), the film simply called for it. Amy Ryan’s role as the sometimes hateful and sometimes sympathetic mother of the missing daughter called for several role reversals throughout the film and you were never quite sure where her character was headed and whether she was simply doing it for the publicity or if she was really just worried. The vast majority of the profanity in the film spills from Ryan’s mouth, but as I said before—her role simply called for it. Combined with the Boston accent, Ryan delivered one hell of a performance that was definitely worthy of the more than a dozen nominations, including an Oscar, that she has so far received for the portrayal.
I mentioned Affleck’s directing once already, but there was one sequence in the film that was a standout and I’m sure after you see the film you’ll know immediately what I’m talking about. Around the midpoint of the film we see Detectives Remy Bressant (Ed Harris) and Nick Poole (John Ashton) preparing to raid a house after Patrick had seen some known convicts inside. While the scene is set up to act like we won’t get to see what goes on inside, Patrick is quickly thrown into a role that requires him to join the raid and what followed in the next few minutes after it was quite frankly one of the more intense moments of the film. I noticed as soon as Patrick entered the house that my heart rate actually quickened a few beats, something I haven’t had happen while watching a film in quite a long time. The sequence was superbly done, especially with the rapid cuts once Patrick discovers the horrors of the house. After this scene I don’t think my heart rate really went down again until the final credits…it was just such a remarkably well done sequence.
With all of the twists that the film takes by the end, it’s almost hard to swallow simply because the film keeps changing its stories of the true events. This is easily forgivable, however, as the ending is so compelling and tears the viewers into two completely different moral camps, causing us to want to side with Patrick as well as with Doyle (Freeman). Affleck certainly chose a terrific story to base his first directing job off of and I’m looking forward to more from Affleck—not only did he bring Gone Baby Gone to life, he added a lot to the film with the camera work and editing that he did with the film. Highly Recommended.
Arriving in a single disc amaray case, Gone Baby Gone sports a combination of a silvery/matte slipcover that repeats the art from the insert underneath. It’s hard to describe this slipcover as I can’t recall any DVD off hand that had the same thing—it’s certainly a nice addition and Buena Vista remains one of the few companies that still include a chapter listing insert inside the DVD case. The disc art mimics the bottom portion of the cover and the main menu is animated with music, while submenus are static.
On the technical side of things, Gone Baby Gone sports a pristine image throughout, although Affleck’s affinity with grain in the darker scenes can sometimes create a fuzzy picture, but nothing that lasts more than a few seconds. I’ve grown accustomed to grain, both in television (hello 24!) and in other films, so it wasn’t anything that really annoyed me, I just noticed it a bit more on this film than with others. Aside from that the films 5.1 mix was mostly subdued, with very little rear channel action happening save for a few of the more intense sequences. Spanish and French audio and subtitles are included.
Moving onto the extras we have a selection of deleted scenes with commentary by writer/director Ben Affleck and writer Aaron Stockard. Included in this small selection is an extended and alternate opening that shows Patrick’s job in a bit more detail, as well as his relationship with Angie. The “Thought-Provoking Extended Ending” really didn’t add too much more to the film, as the films ending as it was thought provoking enough. After the deleted scenes we have two short featurettes. “Going Home: Behind the Scenes with Ben Affleck” is a short making-of style documentary that includes cast and crew interviews that take us through the production of the film. After this is “Capturing Authenticity: Casting Gone Baby Gone” which again includes more cast and crew interviews, as well as thoughts on who to cast for the roles. The two featurettes, when put together, make for a satisfying behind the scenes look at the film and gives us a chance to hear from the majority of the cast about their feelings towards their characters and the film.
Finally we have the granddaddy of the extras and that is an audio commentary by Ben Affleck and Aaron Stockard. Affleck’s voice is quite gravely on this track; at first I thought he was sick or something, but I guess that’s just what he sounds like when he talks for extended periods of time. Stockard speaks up occasionally, but otherwise the commentary is pretty much wall to wall with Affleck, although there are a few dead moments. The silent moments actually throw you for a loop, as Ben Affleck often stops talking right as Casey Affleck starts talking in the film, so you start to think Ben’s still talking and then you realize you’ve heard what he’s saying already. It’s kind of jarring the first few times it happens, but other than that it’s a solid commentary. Affleck freely points out where things could have been tightened up or trimmed, but overall he seems rather pleased with the final outcome—as he should.
Overall Gone Baby Gone is simply a superb film that received a DVD release that is more than enough for a film of its nature. While the film received no Oscar nods directly (only the previously mentioned nod for Amy Ryan), it was easily one of 2007’s best. Highly Recommended.
Gone Baby Gone arrives on DVD and Blu-Ray on February 12th.