While Ben Affleck has gotten a number of flak for his acting ability or lack thereof, there is no denying that his directorial debut with Gone Baby Gone deserves the accolades bestowed upon this work, as he directs younger brother Casey in a tale about the seedier side of private investigation, but stripped of noir elements and immersed totally in the wheeling and dealings with plenty of grey.
Casey Affleck and Michelle Monaghan play the couple Patrick Kenzie and Angie Gennaro who owns a private investigations agency dealing with missing people. Theirs is a small outfit, but they're the go-to persons when you need a second opinion aside from the official investigations by the authorities, the ones who can speak to those in the underbelly of society, whose denizens for obvious reasons refuse to speak to cops. They get called upon one day when the relatives of missing child Amanda McCready (Madeline O'Brien) sought their help to augment police investigations, and as far as statistics go, entering the investigations at this point in time is like entering a fight with one hand tied behind your back, and reluctantly, they decide to first explore their options and study the background, before taking the case on.
It's a fantastic interplay between Patrick and Angie starting off with the latter's fears that results may come in the form of finding the body violated, or in some dumpster. You can't deny that try as you might to emotionally distance yourself from the crime, the fact that it involves innocent children will still somehow grow on you. Worse, the single mom Helene McCready (Amy Ryan) is a drug junkie, which of course presented an additional angle with regards to parental responsibility, and more often than not, you'll find yourself disgusted with her white trash antics.
While the movie coasts along quite ordinarily in presenting both case facts and narrative development as the investigations wore on, what cemented Gone Baby Gone into greatness, is its final 20 minutes. Adapted for the screen by Ben Affleck and Aaron Stockard based on the Dennis Lehane novel, it's filled with incredible melancholy, and ends on a somewhat emotionally sad note with great personal sacrifice. I can't recall a crime thriller of late that gripped you with the finale, especially when many pretenders tried hard, but failed miserably. There's an excellent debate between doing what's right, and what's necessary by the book, although the yardstick of measure definitely differs from person to person. Sometimes, you're stuck in similar catch-22 situations, that it be damned if you do or don't. Depending on your values and principles, you might be called upon to undergo deep questioning of oneself about turning the blind eye and walking away, but unfairly given the constraint of time working against you.
I haven't seen much of Casey Affleck's work except for his short appearances sharing the screen with the bigger names in the Ocean's 11 franchise. I thought that Gone Baby Gone allowed him to shine through and convince that he can be a leading man, though not necessary single name marquee yet. Michelle Monaghan however continues with her supporting female roles playing love interests and such, and I guess it might take a while before she's able to break out of the stereotype. Morgan Freeman and Ed Harris lend gravitas to Affleck's movie, and show that they can still chew scenes despite their limited screen time.
Gone Baby Gone has surpassed expectations, and comes highly recommended from me. You might be surprised at the developments at the halfway mark, and might think there's an error in the runtime, but trust me, that's just where the fun begins and the movie picking up from strength to strength.