Gone Baby Gone (2007)

Rated: R for violence, drug content and pervasive language.
Length: 115 minutes
Grade: CFDB=D
Budget: $19 million
Box Office: $20 million US, $10 million Intl

Written and Directed by: Ben Affleck, in his directorial debut, although he did previously write the excellent Good Will Hunting.
Starring: Casey Affleck, Michelle Monaghan, Morgan Freeman, Ed Harris, John Ashton, Amy Madigan, and Titus Welliver

When a little girl is taken from the home of a lousy mother in a Boston neighborhood, the other relatives hire Patrick Kenzie to find her, using his unique street connections. Over time, drug dealers, pedophiles, and the police become embroiled in the thickening plot.

Entertainment Value: C
If you want an immersion experience into the uglier side of Boston life and language, perhaps you’ll like this. For my taste, the excellent acting by Casey Affleck and Ed Harris is undone by the frustrating plot and a simple difficulty understanding what anyone is saying because they mumble or swear it all Boston-style.

Superficial Content: F
Drugs/Alcohol C, Sexuality D, Violence D, Language F, Illegality F
If superficial content will bother you, this will bother you. Admittedly, there’s no sex or nudity, but the plot involves pedophilia, which alone should rightly make it R. Otherwise, lots and lots and lots of profanity, enough violence to also justify the R, and the whole thing centers around illegal activity. So…F.

Significant Content: D
If you actually intend to watch it, then stop reading. I can’t discuss the movie any more without revealing plot elements. But the content here is bad, too. Cops are dirty, even when they’re trying to be decent. The world is full of scary people. And, even if you do the right thing, you’ll suffer for it because those who love you will want you to do the wrong thing that they think is right.
Artistic/Thought Value: B For recreating a slice of authentic Bostonia, it’s good. Otherwise, I have trouble here. However, the one thing I will give credit for is that you’ll want to talk about the ending with anyone you watch it with. In the end, this is a classic ethical dilemma scenario between consequentialism (which says to do the thing that produces the best results) and deontology (which says to do the thing that follows the rules).

Discussion Questions:
~Does guilt over our behaviors always mean that we committed a sin?
~Does our unwillingness to do something again mean that it was automatically wrong to do it the first time?
~Would you have done what Patrick did inside the house?
~When Bressant explains what he did in planting evidence one time, what do you think of his decision? Are his descriptions of how kids forgive and don’t judge, is he referring to anything Biblical? How does this influence the way you analyze his behavior?
~Would you have done what Patrick did in the end? Was the child better off? What do you think about his girlfriend’s decision?
~How should we balance our obedience to the rules with our obligation to practically make the world a better place?
~In the beginning Patrick says that the important parts of our identity come from the things we don’t choose, like our neighborhood and our family. Do you agree? How might this explain his later decision?
Overall Grade: D
I have trouble enjoying such a morally ambiguous movie, especially where even the otherwise likeable girlfriend leaves the hero in the end. Nonetheless, the acting is generally excellent.

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