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Gone Baby Gone (2007)

Miramax Home Entertainment
DVD Released: 2/12/2008

All Ratings out of
Extras: 1/2

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 2/11/2008

I'm not afraid to say it, I like Ben Affleck. Browse the Internet for just a few minutes and you'll find a world of hatred towards the man, and I don't understand why. Granted, I wasn't crazy about the Jennifer Lopez years, but as far as an actor, I've always found Affleck engaging and funny. And if you've heard the audio commentary on the Chasing Amy, you know that Affleck has a great sense of humor. Still, the Affleck backlash is a real thing. Now that's he's moved behind the camera with the amazing Gone Baby Gone, perhaps Affleck will finally get some credit and respect.

As Gone Baby Gone opens, we meet Boston private investigators Patrick Kenzie (Casey Affleck) and Angie Gennaro (Michelle Monaghan), who work missing person cases in the Dorchester area. They are surprised when they are approached to assist on the case of a missing 4-year old girl named Angela. The case has been all over the news, and the Boston police are working very hard on it. Bea (Amy Madigan) and Lionel (Titus Welliver), the aunt and uncle of the girl, hire Patrick and Angie, and take them to meet the girl's mother, Helene McCready (Amy Ryan). It's immediately clear that Helene isn't a very good mom, but Patrick and Angie are stumped as to who would have taken the child from her home. The pair use their neighborhood connections to learn more about Helene and her habits. When they meet police detectives Remy Bressant (Ed Harris) and Nick Poole (John Ashton), the two officers are skeptical of Patrick's skills, but they quickly realize that the young man has some good information and give him some details of the case. However, as Patrick and Angie dig deeper, they find that the pieces of the puzzle don't fit and realize that they may have been duped from the beginning.

Again, despite the fact that Ben Affleck shared in winning an Academy Award for writing Good Will Hunting, he rarely gets any respect. (How many times have you heard people joke that Matt Damon actually did all of the work and that Affleck simply piggy-backed?) Anyone who sees Gone Baby Gone should immediately regret any assumptions made about Affleck in the past, as he's made a very powerful and memorable film.

Taken from a novel by Dennis Lehane (and adapted by Affleck and Aaron Stockard), author of Mystic River, Gone Baby Gone is a film which works on many levels and will stay with the viewer long after it ends. First of all, we have a mystery story. The mystery is played very straight-forward and the audience isn't given any more information than Patrick and Angie. We journey with them as they travel through the Boston neighborhoods looking for clues. They meet many suspects and the story takes some nice twist and turns. The final twist is quite clever and will shock many viewers. (I was surprised to learn that this story comes from the fourth novel in a series of five (thus far) by Lehane. I would love to see more movies with Patrick and Angie.)

The movie also works on a much deeper level, which will affect the audience. Beyond the mystery, the film is a character study. We see that Helene is truly an unfit mother, but we can't help but feel for her as her daughter is missing. This brings a unique level of emotion to the film. Gone Baby Gone also explores the neighborhood, which we see is full of dangerous people. But, there are also good people like Bea, and this dichotomy adds another layer to the film. However, it's the movie's ending which will raise the ire of most viewers. I won't give anything away, but the finale presents a moral choice, and unless you are watching the movie by yourself, you'll find yourself discussing the ending with those around you, asking each other, "What would you have done?"

The great story in Gone Baby Gone is only bolstered by the fine acting. Casey Affleck (whose mumbling bothers me to no end) and Michelle Monaghan are great at Patrick and Angie. We've become so accustomed to hard-edged, impossibly skilled private investigators, and these real people are a welcome breath of fresh air. They are very believable and we are right there with them when they realize that they are in over their heads. The always reliable Ed Harris turns in a strong performance and Titus Welliver is sold as the distraught uncle. Multiple award nominee Amy Ryan also turns in a great performance. Her acting is very transparent here, and we truly believe that the filmmakers simply plucked a real mother from the neighborhood and asked her to play Helene.

Given the fact that the script is based on a novel and that the film is populated with talented actors, one could Argue that Affleck couldn't miss here. But, it took a skilled hand to balance the mystery with the highly emotional tone of the film. He creates a genuine sense of emotion and suspense here, and the air of violence in the film will have you on edge. I only found one flaw in Affleck's directing, in that he inserted a shot which, to me, gave away the ending. Otherwise, this is a solid directorial debut. All of that aside, Gone Baby Gone is an engrossing and moving film which will at first have you involved in the mystery, and by the end, exploring your own beliefs. Trust me, go baby go to see Gone Baby Gone.

Gone Baby Gone tries to find its way back home on DVD courtesy of Miramax Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The image here looks pretty good, as the picture is sharp and clear. The image is free from distracting grain and shows no defects from the source print. The colors are fine, but some scenes, such as Chapters 10 and 13 are somewhat dark. The DVD carries a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track which provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The stereo effects are fine and the action scenes provide some necessary surround sound.

The Gone Baby Gone DVD holds a few extras. Writer/director Ben Affleck and co-writer Aaron Stockard provide an AUDIO COMMENTARY for the film. This is a good commentary (although Affleck isn't overly funny here). The pair share a great deal of information about the location shooting and the parallels and differences between the novel and the movie. Affleck talks about the actors and the choices which were made to give the film a realistic and dramatic tone. In "Going Home: Behind the Scenes with Ben Affleck" (7 minutes), the director disucsses his involvement in the film and what it means to him. We also get comments from author Dennis Lehane and the cast. "Capturing Authenticity: Casting Gone Baby Gone" (9 minutes) features comments from most of the main cast members in which they discuss their characters. Affleck then talks about the cast and what they brought to the films. There's also a look at the casting of locals in the movie. The DVD contains six DELETED SCENES which run about 17 minutes and can be viewed with commentary from Affleck and Stockard. As a nice change of pace, the deleted scenes here are actually worth watching. The first one shows Patrick and Angie at work on another case, which is something that I actually wanted to see. There are a few dialogue scenes which give us further perspectives on the characters.

Miramax Home Entertainment has also brought Gone Baby Gone to Blu-ray Disc. The film has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the disc has a VC-1 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 27 Mbps. The image here is very sharp and clear, showing grain in only a few shots and displaying no defects from the source material. The sharpness of the image reveals a very detailed look and the picture has a nice amount of depth. The colors are rich and realistic looking and the picture is never overly dark. I noted no overt artifacting or video noise here. The disc offers a Linear PCM Uncompressed 5.1 audio track which runs at 48 kHz and 6.9 Mbps. In many ways, Gone Baby Gone is a very quiet film. We get clear dialogue from the front channel, and some fine stereo effects, but the characters really speak very loudly. Thus, the explosive violence in Chapters 10 and 13 is quite shocking and it shows off the sound design of the film. These two scenes offer a fantastic use of the rear speakers and subwoofer. We are placed in the middle of the chase in Chapter 10 and we feel as if the gunshots are coming at us in Chapter 13. These two scenes exemplify how quality sound can enhance a scene. The extras found on the Blu-ray Disc are identical to those on the DVD.

Review Copyright 2008 by Mike Long