Gone Baby Gone
THE MOVIE The single mother for whom Amy Ryan recently earned an Oscar Best Supporting Actress nomination in this movie couldn't be more unlike the single mother she plays on The Wire. Ryan's Beatrice Russell is a hard-working port authority officer who displays real police skills in The Wire, is only trying to do right by her kids, and perhaps made a bad choice in letting boozing pussy hound McNulty into her home. Ryan's Helene McCready in Ben Affleck's refreshingly subdued directorial debut, is working-class Boston mother of the young Amanda (Madeline O'Brien); Helene is so derelict in her mothering that she routinely leaves Amanda at home by herself while she heads to the local bar to booze it up and do lines in the bathroom--and she might even do some odd criminal activities here and there to make ends meet.
So when Amanda turns up missing for three days, Helene isn't the most sympathetic or law enforcement-cooperative respondent. So her brother and his wife (Titus Welliver and Amy Madigan) hire a local private investigation team of Patrick (Casey Affleck) and Angie (Michelle Monaghan) to see if they can turn up anything alongside the police investigation spearheaded by Remy Bressant (Ed Harris, looking like Viggo Mortensen's older brother) and Nick Poole (John Ashton).
Gone Baby Gone is adapted from a novel by Dennis Lehane, whose work also spawned Clint Eastwood's Mystic River. What's refreshing about Gone is how Affleck and cinematographer John Toll mine essentially the same type of Boston neighborhood and its people for an entirely different look and feel. Gone doesn't go for Eastwood's artificial majesty or even the blunt manliness Martin Scorsese imported to Boston from New York in The Departed. Instead, Gone feels less overtly stylized and more invasively lingering, like checking in on these people's lives during uncomfortably trying moments. And while Affleck the director relies too much on music to convey a mood that his images more than set, his younger brother Casey delivers yet another nuanced performance as a physically slight man capable of much more than he appears capable. And it's the persistently surprising Patrick who draws you into this only modestly twisty abduction story, which--to its considerable credit--never treats a kid going missing merely as a plot point.
THE EXTRAS Above-average assortment of the usual spate: an nonindulgent commentary from director Affleck and screenwriter Aaron Stockard, behind-the-scenes looks at the direction and casting of the movie, and a few deleted scenes. This version also includes an "extended ending" that, having missed the movie in the theater, felt lost on this viewer.