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Gone Baby Gone - drama DVD review
GONE BABY GONE rated R by the Motion Picture Association of America rating: 4 1/2 stars
Actors: Casey Affleck, Michelle Monaghan, Morgan Freeman, Ed Harris, Amy Madigan, Amy Ryan
Director: Ben Affleck   Studio: Miramax
DVD release: 12 February 2008   Runtime: 114 minutes (1 disc)
Format: AC-3, Closed-captioned, Color, Dolby, Dubbed, DVD-Video, NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen
DVD Features: Subtitles (English, French, Spanish), Audio Tracks (English, Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround; French, Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround; Spanish, Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround), "Going Home: Behind the Scenes With Ben Affleck," "Capturing Authenticity: Casting Gone Baby Gone," Deleted scenes, Commentary w/ Ben Affleck and writer Aaron Stockard, Sneak peeks

With a string of box office duds, cinematic pans and a high-profile engagement and breakup at his back, it was looking more and more like Ben Affleck (GOOD WILL HUNTING, SMOKIN' ACES) was circling the Hollywood credibility drain. No pressure, then, for him to turn in an at least middling performance for his big-screen directorial debut.

And deliver the Boston native does with GONE BABY GONE, an almost preternaturally suspenseful drama about the investigation and search for a 4-year-old girl abducted from her working-class Boston home. Ben (who shared co-writing duties on the script adapted from Dennis Lehane's novel) directs younger brother Casey Affleck (OCEAN'S ELEVEN, THE ASSASSINATION OF JESSE JAMES BY THE COWARD ROBERT FORD) as young P.I. Patrick Kenzie who, with his live-in girlfriend Angie Genarro (Michelle Monaghan), is asked by the missing girl's aunt to "augment" the police investigation, utilizing his contacts in the Dorchester neighborhood who "don't talk to the police."

Kenzie and Gennaro agree to talk to the child's mother, Helene (Amy Ryan in an Oscar-nominated role), who turns out to be the antithesis of a sympathetic character. The couple find themselves hunting down leads and clues as to what happened to little Amanda against the wishes of the police, especially the greatly respected Police Captain Jack Doyle (Morgan Freeman), who lost his own daughter in similar circumstances years back, and the detectives handling the case (Ed Harris and John Ashton). Putting themselves at risk as they comb the ugly underbelly of the neighborhood, Kenzie and Gennaro uncover a mind-numbing sprawl of corruption and deception, leading Kenzie to a harrowing moral decision that elevates this film to top-notch cinema.

GONE BABY GONE came down as my pick for best feature film of 2007, and it deserved far more than the single nomination the Academy bestowed. Inspired casting (real-life locals fill the opening montage and the roles of many secondary characters), Casey Affleck's intense but understated performance (not to mention those of Freeman and Co.) and Ben's surprisingly sure hand and dedication to authenticity in setting and story transform this into a phenomenal piece.

The movie can be agonizing - in the best cinematic sense - to watch, especially for parents whose own children are of an age with missing Amanda. It's also a brilliant, rock-solid debut for Ben Affleck and another step up Casey's less flashy but more interesting career arc. Absolutely not to be missed.
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reviewed by Sharon Schulz-Elsing
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