Tardy Critic’s review published on Letterboxd:
Gone Baby Gone is a twisted mystery crime film which will have you scratching your head as Casey Affleck slowly puts pieces of the puzzle together. #spoilersahead
The movie starts out with the kidnapping of a little girl and Affleck’s character is soon hired to help find the missing child. He finds a few clues about the mother’s drug habit which lead the investigation to find money taken from a drug lord named Cheese.
Cheese doesn’t respond immediately, but eventually agrees to setup an exchange. Money for the girl. But at the exchange, someone starts shooting, the girl falls off a cliff into the water, and they are unable to find her. This all happens in the span of a normal episode of CSI.
“That is a strange film,” you might think as the news anchors talk about the death of the girl, Morgan Freeman retires, and we see the empty casket funeral of the child. But the films not over yet.
Another child is abducted and Affleck thinks this might be related.
Side note: I never actually learned any of the characters names in this film. That might be part of the reason I had trouble following the twisting plot, but they just were not memorable.
This second child winds up dead as well, along with one of the cops Affleck was working with. Ed Harris, the other cop, and Affleck have a whiskey assisted conversation which leaves Affleck unsettled. He digs a little deeper and discovers that Harris was in on the original girl’s kidnapping. Which all leads back to the now retired police chief, Morgan Freeman.
And it’s the last 10 minutes of the film which get really, really interesting. The whole movie was just a setup for an ethical debate. Didn’t see that coming, did you? I didn’t.
Morgan Freeman, with the help of Ed Harris and Titus Welliver, kidnapped the girl in order to get her away from her drug addled mother. Freeman, whose character had lost his own child in some unspecified kidnapping, wanted to give this girl a better life.
Affleck confronts Freeman and tells him that we have institutions put in place for this type of situation, such as protective services. Freeman counters by saying that if he calls the police, he’s sentencing this girl to go back to live with her horrible mother and her life will undoubtedly be ruined.
Michelle Monaghan, Affleck’s girlfriend in the film, agrees with Freeman, but Affleck himself can’t live knowing that he let this pass. Monaghan tells Affleck she can’t live with him if he does this… and Affleck calls the police.
It’s a dramatic few minutes for the audience, trying to weigh the pros and cons of the situation. While the girl’s home life with Morgan Freeman is much better than that of living with her single mother, this whole exchange has happened via illegal means. Are the ends justified?
The movie ends with the girl back with her mother, Morgan Freeman in jail, Michelle Monaghan moved out, and Casey Affleck visiting the mother and offering to babysit the young girl. As an audience we’re left to ponder the effectiveness of our legal system and whether or not we believe in vigilante justice.
As far as filmmaking goes, this movie feels rough around the edges. The acting isn’t particularly good. The music isn’t particularly noteworthy. The cinematography is mediocre.
Yet, the movie is captivating. I also found it to be unpredictable.
Definitely heavy subject matter, this film will make you think. It will probably confuse you. There might be one or two points where you get bored. You may find the end somewhat unsatisfactory. But I think that’s the point.
The movie doesn’t have a happy ending because it’s not supposed to. The question the movie asks is “do the ends justify the means?” The answer here is no, kidnapping is wrong. Yet, this answer means we’re left with a non-optimal conclusion. If kidnapping is wrong, than this mother is allowed to (presumably) continue her poor parenting.
As humans we long for utopia. A perfect world, but that’s not where we live. There was no “good ending” to this film and that’s what made this ending so powerful.
Now that I’ve spoiled most of the film for you, maybe it won’t be quite as impactful, but if you have any friends who are looking for a serious film that will make you think, this might be a good one to suggest.
Review by Phil Wels