Ben Affleck‘s first time behind the camera as a director comes in this adaptation of a novel by Dennis Lehane in a screenplay he also wrote brings with it immense critical praise which is well-deserved. Casey Affleck plays Patrick Kenzie, a private detective familiar with the streets and neighborhoods of Boston, living with his girlfriend and partner Angie Gennaro (Michelle Monaghan).
When a child is kidnapped from Dorchester, the Boston police force comes out in massive numbers on a quest to find the child alive, lead by Captain Jack Doyle (Morgan Freeman), and two lead detectives: Remy Bressant (Ed Harris) and Nick Poole (John Ashton). The private detectives are contacted by the aunt and uncle of the missing child to assist in the investigation, utilizing their ability to communicate with the criminal element of Boston with greater cooperation and quickly locate some suspects which the four investigate, seemingly without the involvement or knowledge of the rest of the Boston Police Department, in the hopes that while they believe she has been kidnapped by a drug trafficker to get the mother of the child to return a sum of money she stole from him, they make a simple extralegal return of the money for the child and ensure her safety.
It is there that the mystery begins as the drop goes badly and things get worse and worse and more layers in this complex twist unfurl themselves upon the audience, leading to a climax that is at-once unexpected and a final tying of the loose ends of the film, and simultaneously an open-ended question of morality which the viewer is forced to deal with personally. The direction and writing are fantastic and far beyond anything I expected from a Ben Affleck film, especially erroneously assuming his casting of his brother was nepotism rather than for skill.
In fact the two characters who really steal the picture are Casey Affleck and Ed Harris as each ends up with blood on their hands in actions which have no clear morally decisive side on either right or wrong. Harris is at times impassioned and in one speech is so believable in his acting that it is actually chilling how the viewer sympathizes with his arguments and actions.
Monaghan is an incredible supporting actress, lending yet another moral perspective and forced to make an unimaginable and yet very realistic decision at the film’s culmination. Her chemistry with Casey is obvious and makes the pair work very well together, believing chasing down the demons who harm children in Boston, but still having moral limits in their behavior.
Ultimately little can be said about what happens without revealing the complex thriller that Affleck has crafted here except to say that it is easily one of the best movies to have come out of 2007 and I eagerly await his next offering.