Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Gone Baby Gone

My friend Danny Pelichowski asked me to review this film. If there are any films you would like me to review because you either have not seen it and are worried about the content, or weather or not it would be worth seeing or you just want to hear my thoughts about a film that you enjoy and would like to see some interaction with it e-mail me or leave a comment. I am happy to oblige as best I can.

At its heart this film is about taking responsibility. Responsibility for your life. Responsibility for all the things in the world that you did or did not choose. The opening monologue played over scenes of Boston, many with children, tells us that we are proud of where we live. Proud of how it defines us. Even though we aren't responsible for where we're born, we take a kind of pride in it. 

This film borrows heavily from the Film-Noir tradition of the 40s and 50s. The main character is a P.I. and his girlfriend is also a P.I.. Which is a strange twist on the classic role of the female in film noir. Usually women represent a tragic kind of temptation in the classic Noirs but in this they are a team, two investigators, trying to find a child. But the classic themes of crime and corruption are all present. Also anytime you have a story involving crimes against children it is easy to think of Fritz Lang's M, one of Film Noir's godfathers, where we have Peter Lorre as a child murderer.

The farther our main character goes in the darker things become. And then in the end he is forced to take responsibility for his actions and choices, and in the last lingering shot we are cleverly told through the use of a living room and a TV set that we are the ones who need to take responsibility next. The plot centers around police corruption. But in this case the corruption doesn't involve narcotics or moles like The Departed, it involves protection of Children. I won't give away too much for people who haven't seen this film, but the twists and turns go on for a while as the main character finds himself discovering new strangeness in the Boston Police department every few minutes. 

Several times during the film we find police waxing on about utilitarian ethics. They may not know that's what they're talking about, but their way of thinking is clearly within this tradition. And what ultimately makes the story interesting and confusing is that we feel the force of their arguments. We see how the police corruption in this film actually centers around a desire to do good, and not just to make money i.e. Training Day. 

But even when our main character stands up for his conscience and the rule of democracy and law we find ourselves wondering...did he really do the right thing? When a film takes one of our highest values and makes us ask ourselves if it really is worth it and then by the end of the film tells us essentially that we, the people, make it worth it or not and it does this purely through visual communication we have a great film on our hands. This film does not pretend that America is great only because of its values. Our values are nothing if we choose not to value them. The pro life movement would mean nothing it didn't value children, if the only thing we cared about as pro lifers was the criminalization of Abortion what are we really fighting for? Justice without love is meaningless. And our hero in this film recognizes that and in the end fights for both. 

The two brothers who brought this film to life, behind and in front of the camera, should be lauded for their excellent work. I think Casey is a better actor than his brother Ben, and so I am glad that Ben stayed behind the camera on this his directorial debut. Everyone else in the cast was very convincing. The script was solid, and while the overall pacing of the film was slow it was not boring. It had a steady pace punctuated with acts of violence and intrigue. I give this film a high level of endorsement and I think it really is a great movie. Thanks for recommending it Danny.


  1. Aaron,

    I'm glad you liked it. it had some mature language and dialogue but it wasn't in any way gratuitous. The way they capture the City was simply believable and the intense dialogue and uneasy moments were what made the movie. The movie was a lot of things but I think intense and suspenseful describes it well. Stacy and I discussed so many areas of Biblical ethics after watching this movie. I love it when movies do that. Not just mindless entertainment. It was a heart wrenching movie and there were many worldviews in contrast that of course, we would disagree with but the movie never tried to push one agenda is a sneaky deceptive fashion rather it was clear where certain characters were coming from and how other characters countered and disagreed with them. I thought your review was very accurate and well written. I can't wait to see another movie that engages me the way this one did. Later man.


  2. Yeah it really presented a lot of interesting ethical issues. Mystic River was similar in some ways (which I think was even written by the same guy, Peter told me that today). You might also enjoy The Big Heat, which is a much older film but it deals partially with the consequences of being a good cop as well. V for Vendetta is another film where the ethical decisions that the characters make are very interesting to think about. I will probably do a review of that film soon, and I will definitely be doing a review of The Big Heat.

    I'll try to think of some other films to recommend that deal with these sorts of ethical issues. But this film was very graceful and captured the essence of the dilemma perfectly. But my absolute favorite part was the end. I thought the very end was absolutely brilliant.

    Actually its interesting to think about this film juxtaposed with something like Nolan's Batman films. Batman chooses to work outside the law because the law has become so corrupt that it no longer functions. But in this film we have cops who decide to work outside the legal system in order to protect a child. Why does it seem right that Batman does what he does but it seems wrong that the cops do what they do? They are both essentially criminals right? But the one criminal works as a criminal unapologetically to help rebuild law. The others...well its hard to say exactly what they are doing? And maybe Batman isn't justified either. Stuff to think about it.

    Thanks for your kind words. I've enjoyed your blog as well even though I disagree with you about Natural Theology. You are also a good writer.