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“Gone Baby Gone”

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By Matt Singer

IFC News

[Photo: “Gone Baby Gone,” Miramax, 2007]

We hear Patrick Kenzie before we see him, as he narrates images of his blue-collar neighborhood. “This city is haaaahd,” he says, and if the visuals don’t give away the setting, that thick Boston accent sure as hell does. Patrick tells us he believes that the things we don’t choose — where we grow up, who our friends are — are the things that really make us who we are. “Gone Baby Gone” is about the process by which Patrick discovers he is wrong.

The film is actor Ben Affleck’s directorial debut, as well as his first return to screenwriting since his Academy Award winning script for 1997’s “Good Will Hunting,” and it is an impressive one. There are similarities to “Good Will Hunting” and other movies — most notably “Mystic River,” which is also based on a Dennis Lehane novel set in working-class Boston — but the movie stands on its own, as a thriller that, like the recent “Michael Clayton,” is more concerned with the morality behind its thrills.

Affleck doesn’t appear in the film, but his brother Casey plays Kenzie, a tough private investigator with a deceivingly youthful exterior. Kenzie has a reputation around his neighborhood for his connections to people who won’t speak with the cops; he’s hired, along with his partner and girlfriend Angie (Michelle Monaghan) by the family of a missing girl to augment a police investigation led by Captain Jack Doyle (Morgan Freeman) and Detective Remy Bressant (Ed Harris). The cops often underestimate Kenzie — when Bressant first meets him and Angie he snickers, “I was expecting an older couple” — and it’s easy to see why. He’s 31 and looks at least five years younger and Affleck’s fragile voice (which is higher than Monaghan’s) cracks in a way that suggests a state of suspended pubescence. But Kenzie knows this place, has access to its secrets, and hints, occasionally, at a past that was probably as dark as the men he’s chasing.

Most of “Gone Baby Gone” is about character rather than action, but there are two bravura sequences, and in each Affleck (working with veteran cinematographer John Toll) distinguishes himself with a knack for building, sustaining and then releasing tension. Instead of relying on a noisy soundtrack to provide emotional cues, Affleck conveys excitement and suspense through silence. In the midst of a terrifyingly bloody siege of a drug den, Affleck turns down all the sound until all we hear is Kenzie’s frantic breathing. The camerawork is often handheld in a way that recalls “Children of Men” — long takes that never sacrifice clarity for the easy intensity that comes with shaky shots. And the screenplay is littered with brilliant little nuggets of hardboiled morality (“Murder’s a sin.” “Depends on who you do it to.”).

When Doyle and his cronies dismiss Kenzie for his youth they also assume his innocence equals naïveté. “You don’t know what the world is made of yet,” they warn. They may be right; Kenzie has a much different understanding of morality after he follows the kidnapping plot through to the end. The movie is littered with tough choices but the worst comes at the end of the movie, when Kenzie has to make a decision in which neither option is right or wrong. We watch as he weighs the alternatives and then we watch further as the repercussions of his actions begin to ripple through his life. The film’s film shot lingers long enough on its subjects to remind us that it’s the choices we make — and how we live with our choices — that define us. That great last shot shows Kenzie finally understands. He’s made his choice and he’s prepared to do what he must to see it right.

“Gone Baby Gone” opens in limited release October 19th (official site).

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The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at

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Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

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