Film

Film: Gone Baby Gone

February 1, 2011

More and more I’m thinking I need to check out the fiction of Dennis Lehane.  He not only wrote for one of my favorite shows, The Wire, but his novels tend to make for engaging, twist-filled films.  My latest encounter with his voice is Gone Baby Gone (2006), an impressive directorial debut for Ben Affleck full of award-worthy performances.

A pair of young Boston PIs, Patrick Kenzie (Casey Affleck) and Angie Gennaro (Michelle Monaghan), are hired to investigate a missing child.  Although the police, led by Jack Doyle (Morgan Freeman), are on the case, the child’s aunt (Amy Madigan) and uncle (Titus Welliver) feel that Kenzie and Gennaro can contribute a different angle, since they’re locals connected in the neighborhood.  Kenzie and Gennaro’s investigation puts them into contact with a pair of old-timer cops, Remy Bressant (Ed Harris) and Nick Poole (John Ashton), and the four of them combine their resources to investigate the child’s abduction — despite the self-serving interference of the child’s negligent mother Helene (Amy Ryan).  The case comes to a trainwreck of a close, but in time the couple learns that they only knew part of the story…and the rest puts them in the path of a difficult decision.

In my limited experience, Lehane’s stories tend to play out in stages, rife with twists and turns and false endings as his characters peel away layers of the mystery.  Gone Baby Gone is no exception, a satisfyingly detailed and convincing crime story  filled with strong characters.  The direction is solid and the performances are excellent right across the board, with Affleck, Harris, and Ryan really standing out.  I found it a powerful, well structured, and thoroughly engaging mystery.

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  • Tim Pratt February 1, 2011 at 2:21 pm

    Gone Baby Gone is a pretty good book, but my favorite of the Kenzie-Gennaro novels is the first, A Drink Before the War. (Also: awesome title.) The characters in the novels are more complicated and weird and interesting than the movie versions of them.

    • Lisa Moore February 1, 2011 at 4:11 pm

      Okay, putting both on my book list.

    • Chris East February 1, 2011 at 4:58 pm

      Yeah, I always figure the movie won’t equal the book…definitely planning to go to the source, here. (Was curious if maybe they’d tweaked the script to account for casting age — Affleck and Monaghan were good, but felt a bit wise beyond their years.)

      • Tim Pratt February 1, 2011 at 5:33 pm

        Oh, yeah, they’re in their mid to late thirties by the events of Gone Baby Gone. (I think Patrick says he’s 33 two or three books before that one. I’m sure there’s a timeline online somewhere.)

        A Drink Before the War has some problems — it’s a first novel, and not quite as assured as Lehane’s later work — but it’s a good place to start. I read ’em more or less in order. Yay libraries!

        • Chris East February 1, 2011 at 7:09 pm

          I thought so, some of those lines seemed specifically designed to explain Affleck’s baby face. He was good, though.

  • Lisa Moore February 1, 2011 at 4:10 pm

    This looked to sad to watch before I read your review, but now I am thinking maybe I can handle it.

    Thanks, Chris!