The Review: Ben Affleck has been somewhat derided over the years, but his best contributions to the world of movies have undoubtedly been from behind the camera. For years, his Oscar-winning writing collaboration with close friend Matt Damon was viewed as a one-off, but then his genuinely impressive directorial debut Gone Baby Gone marked him out as a director to watch. Affleck the actor has always been more of a mixed bag though, so there was bound to be a fascination in seeing what Affleck the director could get out of Affleck the actor.
The results are certainly more to the credit of Affleck the director, who again shows that he can deal with action and drama with equal aplomb, and as with his debut knows how to get the best from his actors. Affleck comes across as believable both as the thug who’s out robbing banks and the goofy guy who gets close to bank worker Rebecca Hall (who’s also excellent) to see how much she knows. He’s again managed to surround himself with a solid ensemble, including Jeremy Renner as the more loose cannon member of their crew, Jon Hamm as the FBI man chasing them down and the likes of the always dependable Chris Cooper and Pete Postlethwaite in small but crucial roles.
So there are no complaints at all about the actors, but the rest of the movie is not without fault. First off, the story feels just a little generic, been-there-done-that, and when a Boston crime movie has walked off with a Best Picture Oscar in the last five years, unfortunately you are giving yourself a high standard for comparison, and that’s also reflected in the slight lack of energy – while there’s meat in the drama scenes and the action is solid, the shift between the two and the pacing somehow feels off and saps everything of that spark that would take this from good to great.
Gone Baby Gone also stood out because it posed some fascinating moral conundrums and the story went in unexpected directions. While this doesn’t take any unwanted avenues, it is also eminently predictable and you end up watching more for the performances than anything else. That makes it worth a watch, but it also leaves it feeling slight when it could have been weighty, and you’ll struggle to remember too much about it after the lights have gone up. Affleck the director is still a talent to be reckoned with, and Affleck the actor shows his strengths here; sadly his co-writer credit is the weak spot this time, and let’s just hope he gets better material to work with next time he’s behind a camera.
Why see it at the cinema: The action scenes are thankfully not in the jittery Bay-cam style, but if anything the movie could stand a little more action and a little less conversation. Still worth a cinema visit, but not essential viewing.
The Score: 7/10