Hey Brodie Fanns,
I’ve got not one, but two reviews for you. It’s my October 23rd sales bonanza. Buy one get one free. This week it’s Gone Baby Gone and Rendition
Gone Baby Gone
Like most people who follow films, I’ve been wondering for the past several years when Ben Affleck and Matt Damon were going to follow through with that potential they showed with Good Will Hunting. Well, Damon’s been enjoying a damn fine acting career, so we’ll let that one slide. But Affleck… he’s Affleck, so I was beginning to think it was a fluke. And then along comes Gone Baby Gone.
Based on Dennis Lehane’s (Mystic River) novel of the same name, Gone Baby Gone stars Casey Affleck (the Ocean’s movies, The Last Kiss) as Patrick Kenzie, a private investigator hired to find the kidnapped daughter of an old high school friend. But the many twists and turns of the investigation soon catch up to Kenzie in both his professional life and his personal life.
I’ve gotta start off with what’s good about it, and it’s damn near everything. Ben Affleck makes up for his complete lack of charisma and talent in front the camera, by being a genius behind the camera. There’s only one way to really shoot a Lehane novel, and that’s in the gritty, raw manner in which he wrote it. Ben Affleck took a cue from Clint Eastwood’s previous adaptation of a Lehane novel (Mystic River) and didn’t get fancy with his camera work, just stuck to the basics, and that’s what made it a sight to see. Too often do we get rookie directors wanting to separate from the herd and be known as the “visual virtuoso.” But ultimately it’s obvious they’re trying too hard and the films look too stylish, without any substance to back it up.
Ben Affleck (I have to say the first name, since there are two Afflecks involved) stuck to the formula that works, yet kept it fresh enough to not be cliché and boring. And in case you’re wondering, Good Will Hunting was not a fluke. Ben Affleck and Aaron Stockard (debut as a writer) created an interesting world that keeps the viewer guessing to the very end, and takes you to places you didn’t think he would.
Ed Harris (The Truman Show, A History Of Violence) gives an engrossing performance as a hard-edged, New Orleans born, but Boston bred Detective Remy Bressant. Harris has always been one of those actors who never seems to escape second lead status (save for a few projects), despite consistently stealing scenes from the lead. It’s most likely that he’s just that good of a foil for the lead characters. Morgan Freeman (The Shawshank Redemption, Bruce Almighty), who surprisingly doesn’t narrate, gives a unique spin on a conflicted police captain. Freeman’s always had this regal presence about him, with a goodly nature. To see him play this character who does the unfortunately wrong things for all the right reasons, it’s kind of a side step for him from what he’s used to, but still lying on the outer edges of his comfort zone, so as not to completely alienate his fan base.
And that brings us to the younger Affleck, Casey. He’s shown considerable promise as second, third and depending on the movie, 11th fiddle to other stars, and I can’t tell if he got the lead in this movie on his own merit, or if it was the worst case of nepotism since an Aaron Spelling cast his daughter Tori in Beverly Hills, 90210. He’s got talent. I honestly can’t think of someone that could have played that character any better, as far as talent, looks, attitude. Unfortunately he’s got the stage presence of Hayden Christensen. He needs too loosen up, work with inflection and tone and anything else that goes into making one’s voice poly-tonal. I’m gonna give him the benefit of the doubt, since this was his first time carrying a major motion picture, and he had to stand up against some heavy hitters. But my plea to Casey is, loosen up. Don’t be your brother.
When it comes down to it, it was a thoroughly enjoyable flick, and entirely compelling. Don’t be thrown by Casey’s wooden acting. He’s just nervous. That’s my theory anyway.
It’s topical, controversial, has some of the top stars of the day including two recent Oscar winners. Must be awards bait. Well, the fish are biting, but not hard for Gavin Hood’s new political thriller, Rendition.
After a suicide bombing in the Middle East kills an American CIA agent, Egyptian-American businessman Anwar El-Ibrahimi (Omar Metwally) is detained while changing flights in D.C. and brought to a secret US prison on foreign soil. Having disappeared mid-flight, Anwar’s wife Isabella (Reese Witherspoon) launches her own investigation into his disappearance, appealing to an old college friend (Peter Sarsgaard) who works for a powerful senator (Alan Arkin). Meanwhile, Douglas Freeman (Jake Gyllenhaal), a young CIA agent who was at the scene of the bombing, works with Abasi Fawal (Yigal Naor), who was the intended target of the bombing, in the interrogation of El-Ibrahimi.
Now as I see it, that’s the multiple story lines that were being told, and the only worthwhile ones that needed to be told. Unfortunately, as what usually happens in a multiple plot line drama, one ends up being unnecessary to the main thrust of the film, and that was the sub-plot of Fawal’s daughter going missing. It all ties up in the end, but I still didn’t end up caring about her character anyway, because even after the end, where there’s the big revelation, I still fail to see what she brought to the table. She wasn’t even a deus ex machina, or a red herring. She was just there wasting time and space.
But really, what this movie comes down to is the exact same thing we saw last year in Babel and the year before in Syriana. Global politics, all coming together in the end so it all fits together like a puzzle. Granted the connections aren’t as grand or subtle or even clever as in Babel or Syriana, which is actually a plus in my book. You know everything is connected from the get-go, and they don’t try to blindside you with a “everything is connected” moral at the end of the movie. Except with that goddamn daughter plot, shit! They snuck it in with a silly superfluous plot that sucked anyway. I hate you Gavin Hood, you South African, Totsi directing bastard. And writer Kelley Shane. But he hasn’t really done anything else for me to turn into an insult.
It’s not that this is a bad film. It’s very well written, again, aside from that sub-plot. The acting is good all around. I can’t think of a bad performance. Witherspoon, Metwally and Gyllenhaal give the best performances, in my opinion (and we’re talking a movie with Meryl Streep and Alan Arkin). Amidst the politics of the flick, they all exude the human side of the issue at hand. And that’s torture of innocent people. Witherspoon’s the wife just looking for her husband. Metwally as the wrongfully incarcerated and tortured man. Gyllenhaal who goes through an existential quandary following said torture. It shows that it’s not just about what is right and wrong according to the law and the constitution. It’s about what’s wrong according to personal ethics and morals and how you treat a fellow human being.
I got a little lofty and soap box-ish towards the end, and I didn’t mean to, but it really humanizes the issue. And there are going to be things flung from either side. Liberals saying conservatives are cowboys who through out the constitution on a whim. Conservatives saying the flick is nothing but liberal propaganda. But it isn’t so much of a right vs. left issue. It’s not playing the blame game. The point of the movie is that it’s happening. There’s no denying that. It is happening. And that’s where this movie succeeds. It doesn’t take a political stance either way. It just wants to say “This is happening, and it’s wrong.” All politics aside.
So congratulations Gavin Hood. Well made flick. I applaud you. Just, in the director’s cut DVD, get the rid of that damn daughter plot. It sucks. I hate it.