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Face-Off: Gone Baby Gone vs. The Town

10.11.2012by: Paul Huffman
In last weeks Face Off, we went the horror route and threw two of the greatest directors known to the art of the horror film in the ring together in a battle between Wes Craven and John Carpenter. Echoing my two cents, the victory that went to good ol Carpenter was unanimous. A triumph well earned.

This week, we pay tribute to what seems to be a legendary directing career with now only three films on his resume. You can say what you will about Ben Affleck the actor, but his ability behind the camera can not be denied. The two films that preceded Argo will be getting the love this week in a match up between Gone Baby Gone and The Town. Without further delay, let's discuss.
Story
A little girl has gone missing in the wonderful city of Boston, and the opening narration gives us the impression that this tragically happens more than should ever. A couple who specializes in investigating missing children team up with the city police department to save this girl from a grim fate. Twists and turns (that work) ensue, and we're left pondering our own morality.
Four close friends make their living by robbing banks, and for one the opening robbery changes his life forever in an out of nowhere romance with the bank manager that they decided to take hostage. Now I've seen every bank heist film under the sun, and this take on the particular drama felt like such a fresh take thanks to the particular conflict of our 'Robin Hood' of the piece.
Cast/Performances
Absolutely everyone brought their A game for this film. Casey Affleck, Ed Harris, Titus Welliver, and Amy Ryan in particular. Morgan Freeman came along and played Morgan Freeman wonderfully, Michelle Monaghan had her shining moment in the film when she had to desperately say her peace about a given situation. Bottom line, for a lot of films you can get away with saying there was at least one performance, one actor who stuck out like a sore thumb...who didn't get the job done. If you tried to do that with this lineup, I'd argue that opinion until both our faces were purple.
Ben Affleck. John Hamm. Blake Lively. The late Pete Postlewaite. And Jeremy 'Fuckin' Renner.

These are the people that stuck out for me in The Town. I've always liked Ben Affleck as an actor, he's picked some shitty roles, but he's put effort into every single one of them. He rewarded himself by selecting for himself a great character here. John Hamm played the determined man on the right side of the law who always gets his guy perfectly. My man Renner had the most compelling character here, he accepts where he ended up in life and wouldn't tolerate losing the only thing he felt was worth holding onto. Loved the character dynamics in this film.
Memorable Moments
-We get a title drop scene in this film, now this has happened before and it has come off unbelievably corny, but believe you me...this scene was tense enough that it cancels any corniness out.

-A scene follows a lapse in judgment so to speak on the part of our main character, enter Ed Harris who tells him that his inner turmoil should be non existent. The man has seen some shit, and he shares his jaded view of right and wrong with Casey Affleck and the audience. Brilliantly written scene.

-And finally, the ultimate decision, and the scene that follows the making of said decision. Now I don't know anyone who has seen this film has walked away from the end of the film without pondering what they would do if they had to walk inside the shoes of these characters. Such a bittersweet conclusion to an amazing story.
-The famous scene of this film in which Ben Afflecks character comes in to lay out a plan for Jeremy Renner's character that was as nonchalant as saying they were going to Taco Bell, in which Renner's response was "who's car we takin?" Anyone who has seen the film will agree with me when I say...that's friendship.

-A suspenseful scene written in a subtle way, in which Renner's character runs into Affleck and his new main squeeze on a romantic outing. The things not being said in this scene was amazing, Affleck you traitor.

-A touching scene in which tensions for two friends boil over, a fight ensues, followed by a great monologue by Renner's character. He doesn't want to lose his friend, he feels his friend owes him. It's a very relatable dynamic in which a friend can love you and hold you back at the same time.

-Short but sweet, how bad ass was Renner in the films closing minutes? Nuff said.
Overall
I love a film that finds a way to stay with you, or to go even further a film that finds a way to haunt you. I have to say, no movie has came before this that has made me think about my own morality as much as this film has. I remember talking about it for over an hour with family after we left the theater. Wonderful story, wonderful cast, brilliant direction, everything just worked. It's rare these days that a film that is strictly about the human condition is appreciated by critics and general audiences so unanimously. Gone Baby Gone nailed it. A brilliant debut for Ben Affleck the actor, and he hasn't let up.
The Town had heart, and was entertaining as all hell. It was more ambitious in its scope than Gone Baby Gone while still planting itself in a world that Affleck has become comfortable with. I previously stated that it brought something new to the table of the bank heist film and seemed more intimate than any story of its type that came before it. While Gone Baby Gone had a plethora of haunting moments, The Town had tons of what I would call 'fuck yeah' moments. Similar in some ways, but different in so many others...The Town confirmed to the world that Ben Affleck the director was here to stay.
Gone Baby Gone
So there you have it folks, I know people loved The Town...so I know disagreement will ensue. But the beauty of this Face Off is that the quality of both these films can't be ignored. The nature of what Gone Baby Gone left us has stuck with me on the level of a film lover and as a human being. I find myself thinking of the films content to this day, it challenges us...and while I love going to the movies to escape reality for the most part. Sometimes I like cinema to throw reality back in our faces.

If you have an idea that you'd like to see in a future FACE OFF column, feel free to shoot an email to me at [email protected] with your ideas and some ideas for the critique to base your ideas off. Thank you and in the meantime...

Which Ben Affleck film is your favourite?
POST YOUR CHOICE BELOW!
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