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Ben's baby

PUBLISHED: 18:04 04 June 2008 | UPDATED: 17:10 16 August 2010

HOLLYWOOD A-lister Ben Affleck has turned director to produce this brooding, morally ambiguous neo-noir based on a novel by Mystic River writer Dennis Lehane.

FILM Gone Baby Gone

CERT 15

HOLLYWOOD A-lister Ben Affleck has turned director to produce this brooding, morally ambiguous neo-noir based on a novel by Mystic River writer Dennis Lehane.

Four-year-old Amanda McCready (Madeline O'Brien) has disappeared from her bedroom in the tatty, working class Irish American neighbourhood of Dorchester, Boston. Her mother Helene (Amy Ryan) is bereft, the community are in uproar and there are press and police crawling everywhere.

Three days on, when the police have turned up nothing, Amanda's aunt Bea (Amy Madigan) runs out of patience and goes to enlist the help of blue-collar private investigators Patrick Kenzie (Casey Affleck) and Angie Gennaro (Michelle Monaghan). Angie is initially uncertain about their qualifications to take on the case but Bea's pleas eventually override her misgivings and the two agree to look for the missing child.

They manage to get the case details from police captain Jack Doyle (Morgan Freeman) and his detectives, Remy Bressant (Ed Harris) and Nick Poole (John Ashton) and their relative inexperience forces them to question minor details of the case the more cynical, experienced detectives take for granted.

It soon becomes clear that all is not as it seems and the more secrets they uncover the deeper Patrick and Angie wander into a moral minefield.

Much has been made of Affleck's unforgiving portrayal of his native Boston and with good cause. He captures the innate tension and grim hopelessness of the insular neighbourhood with a tough, honest authenticity and his no-frills direction is tight, punchy while remaining suitably downbeat.

Ben's younger brother Casey leads a strong cast with a performance that proves his superlative understated turn in The Assassination of Jesse James was no one-off. Monaghan, although slightly out-shined by Affleck does a fine job in a tough role and Freeman is especially worthy of note not least for stepping out of his usual kind old man comfort zone and tackling a character that is altogether darker and more nuanced.

With his first feature Affleck has produced a complex and intelligent film which pulls no punches and by its close raises some genuinely troubling questions of ethics and morals.

Gone Baby Gone opens in cinemas tomorrow (June 6).

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