Friday, 3 April 2009

Gone Baby Gone

Lowdown: A missing baby investigation uncovers many open wounds.
Ben Affleck is a controversial character. On one hand, people remember him fondly for giving this world the Good Will Hunting’s script; on the other people will tell you the world is better for Affleck not ending up as that film’s hero character, especially when taking into account the dubious work Affleck has done since (remember Daredevil?). Thus when Gone Baby Gone (aka GBG) is dissected on the operation table for everyone to review, the film tends to be regarded primarily as Affleck’s directional debut more than anything else.
Set in Boston, GBG reveals the unflattering side of the city. After watching GBG you will be excused for revising your travel plans and opting to visit the Gaza Strip ahead of Boston when looking for some good relaxation, because GBG’s Boston is a shelter for gangs and such, full of people that are very Catholic yet lack the compassion and the humanism that should come from their religion of choice’s values.
In this background we have ourselves a private detective (Casey Affleck, who probably didn’t have to audition for the job) and his partner in life and at the office (Michelle Monaghan). Young in appearance and in career yet very well acquainted with the occupants of Boston’s lesser suburbs, the couple is being called to help in a case of a missing baby. The police have been looking it up for several days now and the media is buzzing all over the place, so you’d expect a young detective wouldn’t be able to contribute much. Yet Affleck defies the expectations of the police detective working on the matter (Ed Harris) and the chief of police (Morgan Freeman) by starting a process of unraveling facts concerning the characters in the baby's life. The picture exposed by the investigations is a picture of crime, greed and lack of compassion, as one might expect out of people living their lives in a place characterized by these same attributes.
Overall, GBG is a slick drama with its fair share of thrills and some bit of action. Unlike most of today’s crime stories, the plot is quite unpredictable and things unravel – yet unravel sensibly – just when you think the film will soon be over. It all progresses very well and raises some interesting questions in the process, such as what is the better place for a child to be at: a loving family or their biological family? While this question sounds detached from reality, various nuances of it are quite important. As in, how important is genetic kinship compared to true affection? Not to mention questions about the punishment we endow are kids when we fail to raise them well through our deficiencies. Overall, GBG is not only thrilling to watch, it also leaves you thinking afterwards.
Other than its interesting story, GBG is notable for its solid acting. Ed Harris in particular provides a lesson on the art (for the record, I have had my eye on him since The Abyss). His colleagues are not to be left unmentioned, though. Monaghan, for example, proves my previous Made of Honor claim that there is more to her than just a pretty face.
Last but not least: Affleck’s direction. I have to hand it to him, he does a good job. There were a couple of scenes that drew too much attention to themselves through a deliberate lack of focus, but the end result would have made most established directors proud.
Memorable scene: The ending, where our detective watches TV in others’ company and wonders silently how wise his previous decisions (for which he paid a hefty personal price) are. I can’t say more without ruining things, but it’s a scene I’ll remember for a while and a good reflection on the film.
Technical assessment: This is a nice Blu-ray. Its most interesting attribute was its use of uncompressed surround sound: interesting, because Dolby TrueHD and DTS HD offer lossless compression which reduces the bandwidth necessary to carry the same quality sound between two to three times (as per my Blu-ray player’s bandwidth indicators). Therefore, offering uncompressed sound does not really make sense on paper, only that in reality lots of people do not have the processors to deal with Dolby or DTS’s advanced sound formats; uncompressed takes more space that could have been used in some other manner (e.g., supplementals no one cares for), but gives more people access to sound master quality sound.
Overall: A solid 4 out of 5 stars performer.

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