starring Casey Affleck, Michelle Monaghan, Morgan Freeman, Ed Harris
screenplay by Ben Affleck & Aaron Stockard, based on the novel by Dennis Lehane
directed by Ben Affleck
by Walter Chaw It hurts a little to watch Ben Affleck's Gone Baby Gone, making the experience tricky because so much of it is so pleasurable. There's a moment in particular when amateur gumshoes Patrick (Casey Affleck) and Angie (Michelle Monaghan) are flanked by veteran homicide dicks Remy Bressant (Ed Harris) and Nick Poole (John Ashton) at the beginning of an interrogation sequence that made my heart leap with joy. 2007 is shaping up to be the year that saw the best of the early New American Cinema genres resurrected through the prism of our national nightmare of paranoia and discontent; Gone Baby Gone slots in as the doppelgänger-in-spirit to that period's empty films noir: hard-boiled detectives left knowing less at journey's end than they did at the start. (Compare the way this picture uses genre as a launching pad instead of as a straitjacket.) The final image is an enduring one--in the days since I've seen Gone Baby Gone, it's hardly left my mind--and where bits of jingoistic garbage like Rendition are rattling bleeding heart sabres with patronizing, simpleminded zeal, here's a movie that takes the sobering, mature stance that even things that are black-and-white are never black-and-white. Light years ahead of the last adaptation of a Dennis Lehane novel (Mystic River), Gone Baby Gone is about the insanity of agreeing to be absolutely in love in a temporary, capricious universe. It's about parenthood and, a recurring theme in Lehane's books, the cult of manhood, too: what defines loyalty and how those tenets are the tenterhooks to which we're attached to each other in the bedlam of everything else. It's hollow comfort to discover that once the dust settles, the only thing that makes us men is the handshake agreement to perceive ourselves as something other than animals--if nothing more than animals.