Gone Baby Gone
R1 - America - Buena Vista Home Entertainment
Review written by and copyright: James Teitelbaum (23rd February 2008).
The Film

This 2007 thriller was the directorial debut from actor Ben Affleck. Based on a novel by Dennis Lehane, the story is about a little Boston girl named Amanda (Madeline O'Brien) who has been kidnapped. Amanda is from a lower-income part of Boston. She has no father, and her mother, Helen (Amy Ryan) is a cokehead who screws men in the bathroom of the local bar. Mom doesn't seem to be all that upset about Amanda having gone missing; we get the idea that perhaps it is a relief for her. Amanda's aunt, Beatrice (Amy Madigan) and uncle, Lionel (Titus Welliver) live on the other floor of mom's duplex, and they hire an investigator named Patrick (Casey Affleck) to assist the police in finding Amanda. Patrick works with his girlfriend Angie (Michelle Monaghan) tracking down people who skip out on jet ski payments, and are not sure if they can handle a case like this. They are also a bit young to be taken seriously as detectives. To their credit, Patrick has grown up in the neighborhood, and knows just about everyone. With his baby face plus his 'uniform' of a track suit and a gold chain around his neck, he doesn't come off like a cop, so he has a better ability than the police do to extract info from the barflies, hoodlums, and drug dealers. This makes him valuable to the police, and so he is allowed to 'observe'.

By an hour into the 114-minute film, the mystery is apparently solved, and we learn the details of Amanda's fate. But, this is where the film begins to reveal its layers. It turns out that there is another kidnapping, and as that one that is solved, a new villain emerges. Once that twist is resolved, and the film appears like it is ready to wrap up, there is yet another new revelation. By the time the fourth mystery within the second hour of the film is concluded, Patrick has an intense moral dilemma to deal with, and although he makes the predicable choice, the one guaranteed to ratchet up the drama, there are moments when it seems as though he may go the other way. By the end, this becomes one of those films that stand up to additional viewings. Once the twists are revealed, there is definitely a temptation to go back and look for either subtle clues or obvious contradictions in the events in the latter half of the film.

The cast in this one is universally solid. Casey Affleck carries this movie, working a balance between the standard roles of 'good kid in a bad neighborhood' and 'young lawman proving his mettle'. Ed Harris shines as a tough cop; this is one of his better roles. Monaghan's job is basically to follow Affleck around and be the girlfriend, but at least she is allowed to be a smart and tough girlfriend; when they get into trouble, she is able to hold her own rather than screaming and being helpless. As the police chief, Morgan Freeman is exactly the same as always. Amy Ryan plays Amanda's mother, and is a good sport in taking on this decidedly unglamorous role. The character is scrawny, trashy, foul-mouthed, neglectful as a parent, and is a borderline villain herself. To her credit, Ryan vanishes completely into this wretched woman.

What really makes the movie work is the large number of supporting characters. All of them are well-cast and believable. This is probably due to Ben Affleck's direction. For his debut feature (not counting a 1993 short film), "Gone Baby Gone" is impressive. It is a long-ish film with a complex story and a lot of characters, but it never loses coherency nor does it ever become confusing. Surrounding himself with veteran editors and cameramen (the DP was John Toll) probably didn't hurt Affleck's chances of making a winner, but Affleck certainly had a vision of what he wanted this movie to be, and clearly maintained control throughout.

Video

This is a fairly full DVD, but it was put together well, this 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen image has limited artifacts and too obvious edge enhancement is kept to a minimum. The color palette is a bit dark in tone, reminiscent of a 1970's cop movie, but it works for the film. As is the case with almost any other recent movie made with a reasonable budget, "Gone Baby Gone" was probably edited digitally and could therefore be ported right to disc with no wear to the print. Running time for "Gone Baby Gone" is 1:53:51, divided in to 21 chapters.

Audio

Audio options are in English, French, and Spanish all in Dolby Digital 5.1, with the same choices for subtitles. Dialogue is clear overall, but I did notice some obvious clipping on one scene where Harris gets a bit angry. The musical score by Harry Gregson-Williams is present but not overwhelming, as are the sound effects.

Extras

Buena Vista has included an audio commentary, two featurettes, extended scenes and bonus trailers. Below is a closer look at these supplements.

A scene-specific feature-length audio commentary track is included with director Ben Affleck and screenwriter Aaron Stockard consists of the men discussing many aspects of the film, including things that came out well, and things that they weren't so happy with. Affleck is a bit laconic and not always a very engaging speaker, and there are some longish pauses too, but there is some fairly interesting material here.

"Going Home: Behind the Scenes with Ben Affleck" is a short featurette running at 7 minutes 5 seconds, featuring interviews with director Affleck, the screenwriters, and the author of the book that the movie was based on. The focus of the doc is Affleck's return to his home town of Boston and the challenges associated with his debut as a director.

"Capturing Authenticity: Casting Gone Baby Gone" is another featurette running at 8 minutes 56 seconds about the casting. Affleck gushes about how good the principle cast is, as well as using local actors and local extras. The cast gush about how great shooting in Boston neighborhoods was.

6 extended scenes appear next and can be viewed with optional audio commentary on all of them once again with director Ben Affleck and screenwriter Aaron Stockard. They discuss what the scenes are about and why they were cut. Included are:

- "Extended Opening" runs for 8 minutes 20 seconds; the opening voice over leads into some new establishing scenes of Patrick on a case, and then talking.
- "On the Porch" runs for 1 minute 14 seconds; Patrick and Angie discuss whether or not to take the case.
- "After the Bar Fight" runs for 1 minute 50 seconds; Patrick and Angie have sex after the bar fight scene. Sorry fellas, Monaghan keeps her clothes on the whole time.
- "Having Kids" runs for 57 seconds; Patrick and Angie discuss the difficulties of having kids.
- "Quarry Jump" runs for 1 minute 1 second; an alternate cut of the scene where Angie jumps into the quarry lake.
- "Extended Ending" runs for 3 minutes 45 seconds; a longer cut of the closing scene between Patrick and Amanda. Patrick now gives an extra bit of voice over at the very end.

A series of bonus trailers is last and includes:

- "Disney Blu-ray" spot which runs for 1 minute 48 seconds.
- "Becoming Jane" runs for 2 minutes 29 seconds.
- "Dan in Real Life" runs for 2 minutes 32 seconds.
- "No Country For Old Men" runs for 2 minutes 38 seconds.

Overall

The Film: A Video: A Audio: A Extras: B+ Overall: A-

 


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