September 26, 2010

Movie Review: The Town

"Your mother left. She is not coming back" Ben Affleck's character, Doug MacRay tells Claire Keesey, played by Rebecca Hall, on one of their first dates, about his life as a child, when his mother left him and his father at the age of six.

As a director and screenwriter, Ben Affleck has been pretty successful and is gaining ever more solid footing on the quicksands of celebradom. "Good Will Hunting", "Gone Baby Gone", an Oscar for the former, critical acclaim for the latter, sprinkled with a couple of acting razzies along the way, his latest oeuvre "The Town" conflates his talent as director, actor and shared writing credits into an impressive film. The cast and crew, behind and in front of the camera, from director of photography, music supervisor&composer, editor, production designer and the actors, form a cohesive team for a consistently believeable portrayal of this fringe Irish Thug Mafia society.

Based on the premise, that Charlestown, a bad ass district of Boston, is the robbery capital of the world, we have a gang of four who don't shy away from spectacular brash in-your-face demonstrations of legendary bank robber prowess. These guys rob banks like other people go to a random office job. The options they have is like the multiplication of a single choice.

The film opens with one of their famed hold-ups. Things not going quite as smoothly, they feel the need to take a hostage, bank manager Claire Keesey. She is let go unharmed. The boys keep her drivers license, planning on keeping tabs on her. James "Jim" Coughlin, played by the excellent Jeremy Renner, of "The Hurt Locker", takes a precautionary stance, insisting on following up on her actions, to make sure she doesn't do anything stupid. The mastermind of the gang, measured, unassuming Doug MaCray, decides it's going to be him doing the stakeout.

If you can suspend belief for the next one and a half hours, regarding the budding relationship between the hostage taker and the former hostage, then it's damn cool movie. The very subtle performances enhanced by the proficient craft of the DP, who's use of 90% close-ups, gives the audience the premonition of impending doom, evoking tense claustrophobia.

The use of camera, editing, music and sound effects culminate and draw an extremely sincere and multi-layered character study of the main protagonists. The drive and driving force behind Doug and Jim are tangible. We feel their torture, acquired over years, maybe even born tortured.

These nuances don't quite carry over in regards to FBI SA Frawley, Jon Hamm's character. Here we have no clue as to what his driving force is, to get these guys. An association, or back life was missing. An association doesn't necessarily need to be defined, but at least alluded to. I suppose we may be spoiled by all the baggage Hamm's "Don Draper" carries around in the AMC series "Mad Men". "The Town" merely shows us his reflection, but no glimpse beyond the mirror.

At 125 minutes, the film does get baggy in the last third. Some scenes, especially the last climatic event, are too drawn out. However, all in all, Affleck effectively made his mark.

"The Town", despite the odd similarities with some other cult films "Point Break", "The Departed" and elements of a high gloss "Law&Order", is a stand-alone film. A film that will certainly be referenced for the very deft combination of editing, camera and music to lift the acting to a higher level. Affleck uses all these elements of filmmaking to enhance the story, achieving an incredibly poignant showcase of what life is like in Charlestown, a type of metaphor for life on the fringe of society.

Directed by Ben Affleck
Running Time: 125 minutes
Screenplay by Ben Affleck, Peter Craig, Aaron Stockard, Chuck Hogan
Director of Photography: Robert Elswit
Ben Affleck - Doug MacRay
Jeremy Renner - James Coughlin
Jon Hamm - FBI Special Agent Adam Frawley
Rebecca Hall - Claire Keesey
Pete Postlethwaite - Fergie Colm
Chris Cooper - Stephen MacRay


Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I'll check it oout on NetFlix. We saw the "stupid owl movie" this weekend instead. (My wife's words, not mine! And she's the one who wanted to see it...)

Veronika said...

It really is a good movie. Know I am repeating myself, but camera, editing, use of sound fx was great.

Owl movie....hmmmm....I heard something about that. Seemed a tinnie bit......dull? ; ) Or maybe I am mistaking that for some couple who installed webcams in an owl nest....24 hour surveillance of owls....hmmm....

Rayvenne Black said...

Great review! I will also have to netflix this. I like the nun get up on the cover. :)

Veronika said...

Rayvenne: nuns are great but the masks the guys use in the opening hold up are even better. I seriously could not rob a bank if I had to wear one of those can you see properly? SFX make up a la Mission Impossible....that's the way to go.

; )