It's easy to finger Amy Ryan's performance in Gone Baby Gone as one of the best of the year, however I'm surprised more notice hasn't been given to the entire cast. After all, this is an ensemble film, with fantastic performances from Casey Affleck, Ed Harris, Morgan Freeman, Amy Madigan and a host of Boston locals plucked from obscurity; all of whom were, essentially, asked to play themselves. Gone Baby Gone is a tough film to review, because there are so many plot twists, and criticisms of said plot twists, that it's hard to discuss without giving away some major spoilers. I will say that Gone Baby Gone is a good film; a solid film -- and one that will definitely leave you debating the outcome with whomever you choose to watch it with.
Set and filmed entirely in the Boston area known as Dorchester, Gone Baby Gone revolves around the kidnapping of a little girl and the subsequent investigation into her disappearance. Casey Affleck and Michelle Monaghan play a pair of local private investigators/lovers who are hired by the missing girl's aunt and uncle in an attempt to solve the case by going through the folks who won't talk to the cops. Ed Harris and John Ashton play the main detectives on the case, Morgan Freeman plays the police captain heading the entire investigation and Amy Ryan plays the little girl's delinquent, drug-addicted mother. Based on the novel by Dennis Lehane (Mystic River), Gone Baby Gone will certainly hit you emotionally, but how much depends upon whether you buy into the story as it unravels.
I did buy into it, though the person I watched the DVD alongside (my wife) did not -- mainly because she didn't find the outcome to be believable. After 30 minutes of arguing (most of which consisted of me defending the film), we were still at odds -- but, in my opinion, that's a good thing. I love films that make you ask questions; that make you debate character motivations. Directed by Ben Affleck (in his debut behind the camera), perhaps the greatest character in the film is its setting. Filmed entirely on location using local talent, Gone Baby Gone feels real; it feels personal. This isn't Vancouver passing for Boston -- this is Boston in all its gritty glory. For more on the film itself, see my review from last year, James' review, James' interview with Amy Ryan and a Moviefone Unscripted featuring Ben and Casey Affleck interviewing one another.
The DVD isn't overflowing with special features, but it does come with enough to whet your appetite. Aside from having the option to watch it with a commentary from Ben Affleck and writer Aaron Stockard, you also get two behind-the-scenes featurettes and several deleted scenes (which include an extended opening and an extended ending). The behind-the-scenes featurettes are your standard extras -- one gives a more general look at the choice to shoot in Boston, while the other takes a closer look at casting. Personally, I enjoy listening to Ben Affleck; the guy's wicked smaht when it comes to films and filmmaking, and you could feel his passion for this project when he spoke.
The deleted scenes were of most interest to me, because they focused a lot more on Patrick (Affleck) and Angie's (Monaghan) relationship; a crucial aspect of the film (especially in the end), and one that's not given a lot of attention. While I understand Affleck's choice to leave these scenes out, one of the biggest problems I had with the movie as a whole was Monaghan's character and her so-called romantic relationship with Patrick. It's obvious they have a connection, but when they're each asked to make a critical decision at the end of the film, it doesn't have the emotional impact you'd want it to because we haven't spent enough time with Patrick and Angie as lovers seeing as we're always with Patrick and Angie as private investigators. The deleted scenes focus more on the "lovers" aspect; a part Affleck admits he would've liked more of in the film. The extended beginning is interesting as well; it gives us more backstory for Patrick and Angie, and shows the both of them out on another case. The DVD cover exclaims a new "Eye-Opening Extended Ending," though don't let that fool you -- there ain't much there, with the exception of one additional scene that was pretty much a given all along.
The DVD comes with Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound, which definitely comes in handy during scenes which feature gun shots (yes, I jumped a few times), but other than that it's not needed much. The video comes in widescreen (1:85:1) and is enhanced for 16x9 televisions. The film looks good, with the additional color correction for the DVD adding a nice punch (as talked about by Affleck in the commentary track). Overall, if you haven't yet seen Gone Baby Gone, you should definitely pick up the DVD. This is a somewhat overlooked film (with the exception of Ryan's performance), but it's one of the best crime dramas of the year and I guarantee you'll enjoy it.