Saturday, April 19, 2008

Gone Baby Gone (Ben Affleck, 2007)

****
USA



The old joke that Ben Affleck won an Oscar for typing Matt Damon's screenplay ought to be laid to rest now that he has not only directed but coaxed terrific tension and moral quandary out of this story of an abducted toddler and the baby-faced ghetto private eye hired to help track her down. The latter is played by Affleck's little brother, similarly displaying unsuspected depth in his second-most startling lead performance of 2007. The sordid, coke-rimmed squalor he inhabits borders on the grotesque and the deeper we delve into it, the more gnawingly our notions of Right and Wrong (particularly if we happen to be raised on American TV) are questioned.

After a wrenching first two acts, the third takes a rushed and melodramatic detour and comes on as implausible. However, it brings forth the core dilemma of the piece, which is hefty and provocative, yet so tactfully presented and with such complexity that it sparks off an urgent meditation on prickly but vitally important issues without patronising you with any kind of bias.

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