Watched Gone Baby Gone on DVD the other night. I hadn’t heard of it until I came across it in the video store, which is a bit of a surprise now, having seen the movie. It’s top quality, and tells a difficult tale with great integrity. You certainly won’t agree with the actions of all the characters, especially that of the main character, but it’s a movie that makes you think about what the characters do.
It’s Mystic River territory, but without the three heavyweights who carried that movie. Here the main character, Patrick, is played by Casey Affleck (his taller and better-known brother, Ben directs the movie). This Affleck is someone I don’t remember having seen before, even though he appeared in all three of the Oceans movies. (Not that you remember anyone of the other eight Ocean team members in those movies, pretty much, since they’re so thinly written as characters). Casey is superb in the movie: he comes across as having strength, in spite of his relative youth; he has a moral compass that pretty much sticks on course even though all those around him disagree with his decisions (especially his final one); and he’s believable. His partner, Angie, played in a very soft fashion by Michelle Monaghan, seems almost miscast. Could such a person exist in the neighbourhood portrayed in the movie, where she’s supposed to be at home? She has intuition, sure, but she has little else as a character. She’s the only weak point in the movie, I think.
Patrick and Angie are lovers and partners in work: they’re private detectives, of a sort, and are very familiar with the extremely rough-and-ready territory they inhabit. So rough-and-ready you don’t want to open your mouth and say the wrong word at the wrong time: though Affleck’s character frequently does. The movie is littered with the f-word and even uses the c-word in one striking – and appropriate - moment. And the cast surrounding the main actors is full of actors and, I suspect, non-actors, who look so real you know you wouldn’t want to meet them in broad daylight - let alone at night.
The story concerns a missing child, a little girl, whose mother doesn’t give a damn about her, really, though she professes to. Her uncle and aunt are obviously the ones who care about her, and love her, and they employ the private detectives to bump up the lack of progress in the police case. In spite of this, the detectives get involved with a couple of ordinary police detectives (one of them played by Ed Harris, looking as though the hairdresser had a field day with his tonsure), and the story progresses from there with constant twists and turns. Morgan Freeman makes a few vital appearances, and Amy Ryan is scarily on target as the child's crass and careless mother.
It has a ‘happier’ ending than Mystic River – in one sense. But the choice that Affleck takes is tough, and there’s no knowing where it will lead him. The ending is wide open. (Apparently there’s an alternative ending on the DVD, but we didn’t have time to check it out.)