Morgan Freeman and Director Ben Affleck on the set of Gone Baby Gone.
Photo credit: Claire Folger/Courtesy of Miramax Films.
by KATHERINE GYPSON
Gone, Baby, Gone, the directorial debut of the much-maligned Ben Affleck, is the kind of movie that invites the phrase “Oscar contender.”
Firmly grounded in the gritty world of South Boston and populated with crooked cops, wet-behind-the ears private investigators and coke-snorting single moms, the movie starts with the kidnapping of a 3-year old girl (“Baby” of the title), and descends into possible child molestation, murder and moral agony.
Almost every scene in the first 20 minutes of the film introduces Oscar favorites like Morgan Freeman and Ed Harris, before thankfully submerging them into their roles — allowing the audience to forget we are watching an audition for the golden statue.
While child molesters and drug dealers give the film weight, they do not make a fun night at the movies. There is a dark middle sequence that pumps as much adrenaline as any fireball-laden action movie, while conveying a profound depth of emotions in dizzying succession. A sincere positive is the movie’s unflinching refusal to resort to the hysterical dialogue and visual cliches of the genre, and that makes Gone, Baby, Gone much more than the Hollywood story about kidnapping and corruption.
And the person most responsible for this crucial tone? Its director and co-writer — Ben Affleck. Back in the Southie neighborhood that brought him his first storytelling success with Good Will Hunting, Affleck obviously has a talent for writing nuanced, character-driven scripts. With this movie he also proves that acting in all of those horrible action movies in the late ’90s taught him something about suspense and pacing.
While hardly a perfect movie (Affleck creates only two roles for his female leads — coke slut and sensitive girlfriend), “Baby” will affect moviegoers viscerally — which has been a long time coming at the multiplex. Go see Gone, Baby, Gone before Oscar season, so you will know what all the fuss is about.