Gone Baby Gone

There are plenty of controversial films to appear in cinemas around the country every week. It seems like a new Saw movie comes out bi-monthly, certain to be loaded with plenty of gushing wounds, severed limbs and torture terror. There is also a seemingly endless number of films that continue to up the ante for sexuality displayed on screen, pushing the envelope for what can be shown within the parameters of an R rating. I will stand before you today and with a straight face proclaim that Gone Baby Gone is the most controversial film you could see. Our “no spoilers” rule here at Reviews: Outside The Box will not allow us to state exactly what it is that makes this film so controversial, but Adam and I will go over some of the technical aspects of one of our favorite films from 2007 and one of my favorite films of all time. Gone Baby Gone, based on the novel by Dennis Lehane, stars Casey Affleck and is directed by Ben Affleck.

Micah: So, Gone Baby Gone: does it make your top ten films of all time?

Adam: I don’t know about ‘top ten’ of all time, there are a lot of amazing classics, but this definitely tops the charts in the last couple decades at least.

What makes this film so great is the story. Casey Affleck plays Patrick Kenzie, a private investigator presented with a challenge of finding a kidnapped little girl. Kenzie is sent on an interesting journey surrounded by a company of misfits and deadbeats. This is one of the most unique stories I’ve ever heard. It breaks rank from any of the traditional methods for telling a story but strangely comes across as purely authentic. The story deals with some gritty material. It’s not just kidnapping, there’s quite a bit of drug use and violence, but it all fits perfectly into the story and wouldn’t be as profound and genuine with out it. There is a perfect balance of charm and churning that makes this film so remarkable.

Micah: Absolutely. It is gritty in every sense of the word and yet it’s fascinating to watch. We may not see ourselves in any of these characters but we most likely see people we know or have met before. Some of the dialogue is so blunt and natural (and vulgar I might add) that you’ll find yourself either cracking up or stunned by the the audacity of it. I think many people are going to be turned off by the fact that all of the characters are going to owe a fortune to the swear jar. Also, the violence, while sparse, is excessive and is going to be hard to handle. The feeling you get in your stomach isn’t warm fuzzies, it’s nausea. It’s dark and heart-breaking and almost painful to watch at times. But it’s nothing if not compelling.

The other point that I wanted to bring up is how real the characters are. These people are not saints and they aren’t moms from your kid’s soccer team either. Dorchester is as close to “the hood” as it gets in Boston and these characters’ lives reflect that; even the “good” ones aren’t exactly your archetypes for film heroes.

Amy Ryan is the standout of the group, playing Helene, the mother of the missing girl. She was nominated for an Academy Award for this role. No surprises there: the Academy loves “villains” for their supporting roles. Helene isn’t really a villain, but she is such a terrible mother that her negligence is largely responsible for her child’s abduction in the first place, meanwhile she shows very little remorse for her actions. It is her character that will ultimately shape your opinion of the films ending. Casey Affleck was very good, maybe not as defining as his role in The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, but impressive nonetheless. Ed Harris as always, is phenomenal, and Morgan Freeman gives his token solid performance. He’s never bad and never exceptional, just filling in a minor role as a steadying component to the cast. Also, Michelle Monaghan’s performance can only be defined as subtly outstanding. I find the greatest acting is usually done not with accents or voices or persona, but with the eyes. In one scene near the end of the film, there is so much pain and hurt in her eyes that seems to kill a part of my soul every time I see it.

Titus Welliver

Adam: I just have to say, Amy Ryan left me speechless. It actually took me a few years before I even realized it was her. She really showed her versatility here. Her role was so authentic, I honestly thought they had done their casting right on the streets in the projects of Boston. Casey Affleck was amazing. I thought he was far better in this than as Robert Ford. I was sort of disappointed that he was nominated for that, instead of for his role as Patrick Kenzie, since they came out in the same year. He is perfect as the forlorn investigator who must come to grips with the darkness that surrounds him. Morgan Freeman, Ed Harris, and Michelle Monaghan are perfectly casted in their parts, as well as Slaine who plays a gangster with ties to Patrick. One actor you forgot to mention, that I feel perfectly owned his role was Titus Welliver who played the little girls uncle. I loved his character, and the depth that Welliver gave him. He’s quickly becoming one of my favorite supporting actors.

Micah: You’re right about Welliver. He might be most well known as “The Man in Black” from Lost but I think he puts himself into the upper echelon of character actors with his role in this film.

Adam: This is Ben Affleck’s (big brother to Casey) first crack at directing. Ben is a decent actor and well worthy of praise in that field. This film, however, shows where Ben genuinely shines: behind the camera coaching the actors and administrating the artistry.

What do you think, Micah, is Ben Affleck going to go down into the halls of infamy with the likes of Ron Howard and Jon Favreau as a better director than an actor?

Micah: It will be interesting to see what Ben does in the future with two excellent films under his belt (The Town, 2010). I’m not sure if he is a good director of actors or if he was just fortunate to have a good casting director and get some great actors to work with, because both of his films are impressive performance wise. Yet, it is Affleck’s ability to bring a very raw emotional punch to a thriller as he did in The Town and his skill in telling a story with intensity and restraint simultaneously as he does in Gone Baby Gone, that is most impressive. And the fact that he does this without relying on the twist (but using it to its full potential – a key difference) is certainly a sight to behold. I know I will be looking forward to whatever he does in the future.

Our Take

Maybe controversial and twist-laden films aren’t your thing. You might prefer to be entertained or provoked to laughter. It doesn’t matter. Go see this movie! It will agitate the hardest heart and will focus the most feeble attention span. The moral dilemma that presents itself near the film’s end will have you trying to re-define right and wrong and will remain long after credits roll. On that basis alone we cannot recommend this movie enough.


Note: That said, this is not a family film and it is certainly not appropriate for children. It is rated R for violence, drug content and pervasive language.

Adam gives this movie 5 out of 5 stars.

Micah gives this movie 5 out of 5 stars.

About Micah Lovell

Once I ate four brussell sprouts just to say that I could actually do it. O.K. I lied. I only managed to eat two.
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4 Responses to Gone Baby Gone

  1. Sarah Finlay says:

    This movie was extremely raw. It was a good movie in the sense that it was so realistic. I did not like it because I prefer to watch movies that are entertaining. This movie is not entertaining but it is a piece of art…just not one I would like to see again. It definitely made me thank God for placing me in a stable Christian home (that did not say the “F” word every other sentence :P) and for salvation.

    I would say don’t watch it if you want a fun light hearted time or if anyone who is young is around. I would recommend it to someone who can watch movie discerningly and enjoy thought provoking intense dramas.

    • Adam Miller says:

      You’re right Sarah. This really isn’t a family film, but I think there is a wealth of value to what one can learn from it. I’d encourage people to watch it, but only if they know what they’re getting themselves into. Sometimes Christians need to get a clear perspective on the world and deal with the challenging questions. I like to ask people right before the film, “What would you do in this circumstance?” Then after it’s over I ask them again. It’s always interesting to see how people come to their conclusions. Unfortunately, a lot of their responses are not biblically motivated. Overall, this is some good material for Christians to wrestle with.

    • Amber Monroe says:

      I love this movie.

      Sarah, I love how when I came to your house you said, “I just don’t want to watch a thinking movie” and I was like, “Let’s watch Gone Baby Gone!!” LOL. Sorry for infecting your home 😉 I’ll never forget what you said after we finished watching it….”I’m not gonna be able to talk normal for a week.” LOL. Can’t wait to infect you again at Christmas time! 😉

  2. Sarah Finlay says:

    I agree. I think it’s important for people to be discerning, and to be able to think and watch discerningly, and the movie definitely provokes thoughts. It’s important for us to not be to sheltered. I’m glad I saw it, it made me think, especially how I would have reacted to the moral dilemma at the end, but I don’t want to see it again. 😛

    Amber, you are always welcomed to come and infect my home with your thought provoking, swearing movies! 😉

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