There was a show in America, which I believe has just come out in the UK, featuring paedophile entrapment and a yelling silver-haired man, followed by FBI arrest (it seems that Brass Eye predicted the media’s next move perfectly with their mock trailer for “the Paedo-files”). There’s no doubt that horrible things happening to kids is very very bad, but like hoodies and terrorists the media seems to enjoy latching on to it as a trigger-point and making it into a massive threatening cloud that they can exploit for all its worth.
Gone Baby Gone would have been released last year, but its timing wasn’t great as it features the abduction of a little girl, and it wouldn’t have been too appropriate to release a film so close to a real-life event. Plus there wouldn’t have been room for it, what with the 24/7 news coverage, web site, blog, documentary and wrist bands.
And so it is only now released, with Ben Affleck behind the directing and writing chair, and his brother Casey in the spotlight as a private detective hired to help find a missing girl. It’s a cross between Without a Trace, CSI, The Shield and any other show with detectives, cops and a hyperactive director. Benji has taken everything he’s learnt about direction and thrown it all in, so we have mega shaky-cam for dramatic bits, odd close-ups of random shit when people have Important Conversations, and even weird snap-shot editing to emphasise something really shocking. It does have the feel of a TV show rather than a film, especially with a soundtrack and voice-overs to lazily tell us what the character’s feeling.
As for the plot. Well, there are points where it feels like Benji has watched something like the Paedo-files and thought “damn-right! Where’s my pitchfork!” But there are also points where he may have taken a different approach, showing the pitch-fork wavers to be less than perfect themselves. He has managed to make a lengthy story with lots of “ooo” plot twists, but his characters are a little cardboardy, with shallow histories if shown at all.
Casey (whose strained voice sounds like he’s constantly hanging his head upside down) is undeniably good at what he does, wowing in the Assassination of Jesse James, but this character comes with an untold history that could have been explored much further and given him an edge (how did he get to be a detective so young? Why does he know all these shady characters and have such a tough streak when he ultimately seems a bit wet?) Morgan Freeman pops up as a detective (nice change for you there, Morgan) and the most striking thing has to be his freckles, which seem to be parodying themselves nowadays. And the ever reliable Ed Harris rocks up as a cop, but spends most of his time SHOUTING lots and lots.
But Amy Ryan impresses as the mother of the missing child, and though I’ve ripped into it a little already, I have to say that Affleck has made a film that does give you chance to consider some moral conundrums. To avoid spoilers I can’t say much more, but it was nice to have some thoughtful depth to the proceedings. The film was also tensely exciting at times, and with an ever-changing whodunnit line that hooks you until the end.
With a formidable Casey in the front seat, I was wanting more of a character study than a typical detective film with a slightly more risqué subject matter. It’s one of those films you could watch on a Saturday night and probably pay attention to the whole way through, but it’s a long way off being something great. Therefore it just hits a CF0. That’s ok though, Benji. You can settle with having an OK film. You did star in Daredevil after all, so the only way is up.