Gone Baby Gone
Review by Jack Foley
GONE Baby Gone is destined to be remembered as the film that had its UK release postponed over fears that it might cause offence or distress because of its “similarities” to the real-life Madeleine McCann case.
It would be a tragedy if its release, some months later amid the blockbuster season, wasn’t celebrated as the masterpiece it so clearly is.
Ben Affleck’s directorial debut is a stunning piece of cinema: a heart-breaking and emotionally involving detective story that treats a difficult subject matter with the respect and sensitivity it warrants.
Set in Boston, the film picks up as four-year-old Amanda McCready has gone missing and local detectives Patrick Kenzie (Casey Affleck) and Angie Gennaro (Michelle Monaghan) are asked by the child’s aunt and uncle to help with the search.
Initially, their presence antagonises the local police chief (Morgan Freeman) but after they’re paired with lead investigator Remy Bressant (Ed Harris) and his partner Nick Poole (John Ashton) they begin to uncover some uncomfortable secrets about Amanda’s mother (Amy Ryan) and an ever-expanding list of suspects.
Based on the novel by Dennis Lehane (of Mystic River fame) Gone Baby Gone is seldom easy to watch but consistently asks some difficult questions that are sure to stir some passionate emotions among everyone who sees it. At its heart, it tackles the notion of right and wrong from a number of different perspectives and puts everyone in a difficult spot.
On that basis, it lingers long after the final credits and continues to resonate because of its very real implications.
UK viewers are certain to be struck by certain similarities to recent headlines, not least because of the striking similarity between Madeline O’Brien, the actress who plays missing Amanda, and the real-life Madeleine McCann. But it’s important to stress that this is a different story and is based on a work of fiction.
That said, Affleck’s intelligent screenplay – co-written with Aaron Stockard – is as much a cautionary tale as it is a damning indictment of the frustrating ambiguity of the law.
In terms of performance, the film is also first-rate with Casey Affleck, in particular, emerging with maximum credit. His portrayal of the conflicted Patrick is one of unspoken intensity and the actor never resorts to showboating even when the stakes are raised. He fully deserved his Oscar nomination (and possibly something more).
Ryan, too, is brilliant (and similarly Oscar-nominated) as the mother whose suitability poses many of the film’s moral questions, while it’s good to see Michelle Monaghan in a dramatic role that stretches her talents beyond comedy. She steps up to the task well.
Noteworthy mentions also go to old-timers Freeman and Harris, whose work here rivals their best, while even the smallest supporting role is delivered with utmost conviction.
Boston native Affleck also ensures that his home city is captured in suitably authentic style, whilst also honouring the observations and textures offered by Lehane’s gritty text.
This, as mentioned, is a tour-de-force from everyone involved that really does rate as one of the films of the year. It’s emotive, emotional viewing that mustn’t be overlooked by any true fan of cinema.
Running time: 114mins
UK DVD Release: September 22, 2008