Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

Gone Baby Gone


Dennis Lehane is much more than just a genre writer, he’s simply one of the best writers working today. There are no easy situations in a Lehane novel, and no easy answers. In Mystic River, the father of the murdered daughter kills the wrong man … which is tough enough, but then Lehane makes it clear that the guy can live with it. Whoa! His series of Boston PI novels featuring Patrick Kenzie and Angie Gennaro are as tough-minded and brutal as any books I’ve ever read. And Ben Affleck does a damn good job with this book his first time out of the box as a director, starring his little brother Casey as Patrick. In the course of the story this man is twice presented with a chance to step outside the law and do what many of us would consider to be “the right thing.” The first time, he does what I believe 99% of us would … well, maybe not do, but not have any big moral objections to. But it doesn’t seem to sit easy with him. And I wonder if it would sit easy with me? For whatever reason, the next time he makes such a choice, he does what I suspect 99% of us would not approve of … but I can’t find it in my heart to condemn him for it. I don’t know what it’s like to murder a man—even a completely loathsome man—in cold blood, and he does. I don’t want to get into too much detail for those of you who don’t know the story, because I think it will rock you, and make you think for a long time. Is kidnapping ever okay? Even for the best of reasons? Before you answer, remember that the huge majority of spousal kidnappers truly believe they are doing the right thing for their children … and, of course, some of them are. But who am I to set myself up as the decider?
Two observations, one good, one bad.
Good: Amy Ryan is nominated for Best Supporting Actress as I write this, and boy, does she ever deserve it. She plays one of the most loathsome, irredeemable, needs-killing … and yet perfectly ordinary characters I’ve ever seen on the screen. That was the assignment, and she sure delivered. I haven’t seen Cate Blanchett as Bob Dylan in I’m Not There, but I think Ryan may be even better than Tilda Swinton in Michael Clayton, who was my choice until I saw this movie. She’s definitely better than Saoirse Ronan in Atonement. (Ruby Dee will probably get it, though, in a sentimental vote. She wasn’t that good, actually.)
Bad: Angie Gennaro is hardly in this movie. Mostly she just sits around and listens. My memories of the books is that she was a hell of a lot feistier than that. Shame on you, Ben, as co-screenwriter, for cutting all of Angie’s lines!