Sunday, June 08, 2008

Movie Review: Gone Baby Gone

Gone Baby GoneEthical dilemmas only really occur when values that are held equally dearly come into conflict with each other and cannot be resolved by protecting both. For example, a mother is pregnant but continuing with the pregnancy threatens the life of the mother. If you believe that both mother and baby are equally human and have an equal right to life, what do you do? Do you terminate the pregnancy or allow the mother to die to save the child’s life? It is impossible to choose without having to undermine at least one equally held value. Ben Affleck, in his movie Gone Baby Gone, powerfully confronts us with a series of such ethical dilemmas.

When four-year-old Amanda McCready goes missing, Patrick Kenzie (Casey Affleck) and Angie Gennaro (Michelle Monaghan), two private investigators, are called in to help by the child’s aunt (Amy Madigan). She is worried that the police are not going to be successful in finding her niece and Patrick and Angie are experienced in finding missing people -- at least, those who choose to go missing -- not those who are kidnapped. As they investigate, they uncover a tangled web of crime that brings them into danger and challenges their morality to its core.

Gone Baby Gone is an intelligent crime/thriller that is, at times, difficult to watch. There is pervasive coarse language, high-level violence, and drug use. But somehow, all these fit with the context of the story. These are real people dealing with real moral dilemmas. Ben Affleck should be congratulated on producing a movie that is driven by these moral conundrums rather than special effects. Gone Baby Gone also ranges over other issues such as the nature of parenting and the role of child care services. Affleck has evoked excellent performances from his actors and the dialogue is tight and powerful.

The power of Gone Baby Gone is evidenced by the conversations that occurred following the cinema showing I attended as people discussed what they would do in the circumstances portrayed.

If you think you can handle the language and violence of this movie, then go see it. It will have you thinking for days after. So often, within Christian circles, we discuss moral decisions as if there is no question how we should decide. If that happens, then I would hazard to say that we are not living in the real world where morality is not so black and white. A moral dilemma is just that - a dilemma full of ambiguities. Trying to choose what is right when the choices are significant is never going to be easy. And given that, it is almost impossible to judge the choices of others.

My Rating: **** (out of 5)

Positive Review
’Though its procedural goes a little soft in the middle, Gone Baby Gone quietly accumulates in power, leading to one of the more subtly devastating final shots in recent memory.’ - Scott Tobias/The Onion (A.V. Club)

Negative Review
’Storytelling problems surface toward the overwrought climax, but the worst problem is the unrelenting grimness. It’s hard to like a movie that leaves you with no hope.’ - Joe Morgestern/Wall Street Journal

Content Advice
Violence, drug content and pervasive language

AUS: MA15+