Warning: This review may contain traces of spoilers and may have come into contact with spoilers from other movies.
Ben Affleck showcased his true raw talent with his directorial debut of Gone Baby Gone (2007).Based on the book by Dennis Lehane, the film revolved around the search for a kidnapped girl in Boston. Affleck took a step back from acting and went behind the camera to helm this film and it was indeed, a great success, garnering Affleck more respect than he had ever gotten in his career. He then went on to direct the movie adaptation of Chuck Hogan’s Prince of Thieves, titled The Town.
Going into this film, I had only seen the trailer a week before. While it really impressed me, I didn’t want to hype it up for myself since many films have disappointed me this year (obviously Inception does not fall in that group). After seeing this film, I feel it’s safe to say that Affleck has found his true calling in directing. The Town is well made down to the smallest detail! Great storytelling, acting,cinematography, music, editing etc. While some of the elements of the story are a bit generic, the film is never predictable. We get to hang out with four criminals (two of whom are played by Ben Affleck and Jeremy Renner) in Boston, who rob a bank, disguising themselves with Rastafarian skull masks. In the process, they take one of the employees, Claire (played by Rebecca Hall), as a hostage and leave her at the beach. With that established, the movie explores the aftermath of the robbery and you get to really understand these men and their differing personalities. Doug (Affleck) is a much more sympathetic and generally a decent character compared to his maniacal friend James (Renner), as he, unlike James, has made it his intent not to hurt anyone (not badly at least). Doug is concerned about Claire and intentionally gets close to her to see how she feels and also to find out how much information she gave the police and the FBI (who are already aware of Doug and his crew’s misdeeds). The two spark a friendship – one that could very well lead to serious consequences.
The film focuses on a number of different themes and moral dilemmas. Brotherhood, paranoia, murder and loyalty, among others, are analyzed through these characters and are all wrapped up nicely in the end. A great deal of tension is felt in the film, and you do find yourself rooting for Doug’s gang to get out of whatever sticky situation they happen to be in. Every character has a good amount of screen time, so there is plenty of character development, and no one gets left behind. Everyone from Ben Affleck (who can be a bit hit-and-miss when it comes to his performances) to Blake Lively has brought their characters to life. Ben Affleck, Jeremy Renner and Rebeeca Hall all give performances worthy of Academy Award nominations. Also, the rapper known as Slaine (who also appeared in Affleck’s Gone Baby Gone) gives a solid performance in this picture and should be one of Affleck’s regulars when doing a Boston film. The rest of the cast not mentioned here do a good job too.
It should be noted that while Affleck can direct tension, he can also direct extremely intense action scenes. Heat, The Departed, Scarface, No Country for Old Men and Taxi Driver (to name but a few) have given some very memorable shootout scenes, and The Town has now joined those ranks. All the action sequences are executed in such a way that you feel genuinely worried that someone will get hurt. Many action scenes I have seen (most recently in Public Enemies) have left me somewhat detached from the story, whether they are done in shakey-camera mode or very fast editing, they just seem to be making them for pure spectacle. This is not the case in The Town, and just thinking about those scenes, makes me want to rewatch them over and over again.
I am very pleased with Ben Affleck’s rebirth. God knows J-Lo hurt him and his career pretty badly (Marc Anthony would do well to reflect on that), but he’s back and you can’t laugh at him anymore. It’s also refreshing to see a filmmaker love his hometown of Boston so much that he is willing to show its not-so-pretty side – you can tell Affleck is pretty angry about the amount of crime in Boston, and it makes for a good movie. Previously working with very close friend (and another Boston kid) Matt Damon on Good Will Hunting Affleck has managed to craft excellent films set in his hometown which could become part of a “Boston anthology”. The great city has such a rich history, and it’s really a pleasure to see someone be so proud and loving of his home no matter what. While Affleck did a damn good job acting in this film, I still think he makes a much better director (and I mean that with the highest compliments). Overall, The Town is a really good film and one of the best that 2010 can offer.
Congratulations, Ben, you’ve built yourself one hell of a new career behind the camera!
4 out of 5