Sunday, September 28, 2014

Don't Make a Scene: Gone Baby Gone

The Story:  I'm really not fond of Ben Affleck as an actor.

But as a writer...and as a director...I think he's sensational, maybe one of our best. Judging from just three feature films.

Everybody knows what a splash he made with Argo (the weakest of his films, in my opinion, although there is a lot of good in it), and his second film, The Town, was a modern take on the old gangster films that tested a man's loyalty to his past, his upbringing, and society at large—a story of growing up and growing out within a criminal gang.  My favorite of the three, his debut as a director, Gone Baby Gone, (based on the novel by Dennis Lehane) tells the story of two Boston townies (Casey Affleck, Michelle Monaghan), private detectives, who are asked to investigate the disappearance of a little girl from the house of her dirt-bag mother (Amy Ryan), possibly as revenge for her part in ripping off a local drug dealer.

Even as the movie starts, Affleck and his cinematographer set up the scheme with which they'll shoot the movie: crowded, complicated, piece-meal, slices of life, filled with grit.  This opening montage, overlayed with Casey Affleck's monotone narration spoken in a high rasp, of everyday people, looking, constantly looking, interacting, watching their backs, their neighbors' backs, cuts through the strata of Boston life, and includes lots of kids mingling in the play-yards and the city-streets, until it lands on a "still-life"—the picture in a shop-window of the child missing in the investigation, and with that, the meditation ends and the story proper begins.

The Set-Up:  Nothing.  The movie's just started.


Unused sections of the script are in RED.

Clouds moving through the sky.
We see various shots of the city, exterior storefronts, people going about their lives and some wider shots of the city.

As they continue, the hour gets progressively later in the day until the final sequence which takes place at night.

Over this we hear our guy, PATRICK (30) .
PATRICK (V.0.) I always believed...
PATRICK (V.0.) was the things you don't choose...
PATRICK (V.0.) ...that makes you who you are.
PATRICK (V.0.) Your city,
PATRICK (V.0.) ...your neighborhood,
PATRICK (V.0.) ...your family.
PATRICK (V.0.) People here take pride in these things,
PATRICK (V.0.) it was something they'd accomplished.
PATRICK (V.0.) The bodies around their souls,
PATRICK (V.0.) ...the cities wrapped around those.
PATRICK (V.0.) I lived on this block my whole life;
PATRICK (V.0.) ...most of these people have.
PATRICK (V.0.) When your job is to find people who are missing,
PATRICK (V.0.) helps to know where they started.
PATRICK (V.0.) I find the people who started in the cracks...
PATRICK (V.0.) ...and then fell through.
PATRICK (V.0.) This city can be hard.
PATRICK (V.0.) When I was young, I asked my priest...
PATRICK (V.0.) you could get to heaven...
PATRICK (V.0.) ...and still protect yourself...
PATRICK (V.0.) ...from all the evil in the world.
PATRICK (V.0.) He told me...
PATRICK (V.0.) ...what God said to His children.
PATRICK (V.0.) "You are sheep...
PATRICK (V.0.) ...among wolves.
PATRICK (V.0.) Be wise as serpents...
PATRICK (V.0.) ...yet innocent...
PATRICK (V.0.) doves."


A playground at night, completely empty. One of the swings drifts back and forth . . .

Gone Baby Gone

Words by Ben Affleck and Aaron Stockard

Pictures by John Toll and Ben Affleck

Gone Baby Gone is available on DVD from Miramax Home Video.

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