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Gone Baby Gone

Year: 2007
Production Co: The Ladd Company
Studio: Miramax
Director: Ben Affleck
Producer: Alan Ladd Jr
Writer: Ben Affleck/Aaron Stockard/Dennis Lehane
Cast: Casey Affleck, Michelle Monaghan, Morgan Freeman, Ed Harris, John Ashton, Amy Madigan
Mystic River was an acting masterclass but as a story it didn't really impress as much as I wanted it to. Here, Mystic River author Dennis Lehane and director Ben Affleck tell a story in their native gritty Boston that's both high quality in the technical sense (that goes for acting and dialogue as well as camera and editing) and a surprisingly gripping yarn.

When the twist came, it hit me right between the eyes, and the way the film handled the moral conundrum was singularly brilliant. What seems like the right thing soon pales when everyone around you seems to disagree, even your own wife. Is it really the right thing? Should you stick to your guns? How can the right thing be so seemingly harmful to everyone involved? It's the sort of choice a character faces that studio production notes always crap on about but rarely achieve this fully.

A little girl has gone missing from a rough Boston neighbourhood. The police, led by the wise senior investigator (Freeman) talk big but aren't getting much achieved. The grandmother of the child approaches local investigator team, lovers Patrick (Affleck) and Angie (Monaghan) to poke around in back alleys and use their local knowledge and connections where the police can't or won't.

The pair start peeling away layers of a straight up and down kidnapping and apparent murder along with a gruff police detective (Harris) and various local low lives. When it appears that the girl's not only alive but being held in connection with her skank mother's shady network of drug dealer friends, the heroes set up a sting to get her back, but it all goes badly wrong.

From there you expect things to wind down and the movie to end with as much bleakness but as little resolution as Mystic River, but the suckerpunch twist comes into view in a series of new leads on tenuous clues that Patrick follows under his own steam that lead him ever deeper into a seedy underworld.

Showing the charisma with which he tore up the screen in Jesse James (albeit in a totally different role), Affleck is among the most credible young actors working today. His brother Ben, after a long and maligned career in front of the camera, might have finally found his forte behind it, and I'm eager to see more from the Affleck/Lehane triumvirate.

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