Friday, February 29, 2008

Muriel Awards 2007: Best Film, 5th Place

(85 points / 9 votes)

"Amidst the talk of Gone Baby Gone, people often forget to mention that its a whodunit. There's a mystery to solve, and the private detective protagonist and his wife pursue the case until its close. But as the audience can attest, it's easy to see why the omission is so frequently made; when was the last time a mystery was so thematically rich and deeply moving, utilizing an impeccable balance of cerebral, emotional, and visceral pleasures? Ben Affleck's directorial debut seems like the work of a seasoned filmmaker; its intimate familiarity with the lower-class Boston setting, the gripping but methodically paced narrative, the seemingly casual elicitation of great performances from an excellent ensemble cast. This suggests not the work of a rookie, but a real pro, or at least someone who paid damn close attention to the way his better directors ran the show.

"The thoughtfully sad and at times angry film addresses the horrors inflicted on children by adults, abuses ranging from neglect to molestation, and just where our responsibility to the young begins and end. The narrative is focused through the eyes of Casey Affleck, who finds himself forced to navigate an array of complex moral dilemmas as the plot thickens. Unlike most mysteries, Casey doesn't use a genius intellect or supernatural talent to leap to impossible conclusions about the case, but figures things out with careful logic, and because he has much more time than we to ponder it. His detective work inevitably brings his sense of justice into conflict with individuals whose own sense of right and wrong is terribly different from his but no less strong, forcing him to make undesirable choices. And although the case is solved, the film ends with a question mark, leaving Casey and us to wonder if he did the right thing, and if not, just what the hell the right thing is. It's a marvelous work, and certainly better than a whodunit by a first-time director has any right to be." ~ James Frazier

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