First time's the charm
Advice to a would-be novelist: write what you know. Tip for a first-time director: show what you've seen. Ben Affleck has been living in the tabloids for so long, it might seem as if he had been born there. But no, he's a Boston kid, and for his debut in the auteur sweepstakes, he wisely chose a Dennis Lehane suspense novel set in the down-and-dirty Boston suburb of Dorchester.
From the start, then, Affleck had two things going for him: a tightly wound plot to keep viewers guessing and a milieu--working-class sleuths and suspects--that would be exotic to viewers yet familiar to him. He also wisely dispensed with his own services as an actor. On these mean streets, Ben Affable would look as alien as a polo player. Brother Casey, with his cautious moves and strangulated voice, was the right man for the job.
Like the Boston-shot films Mystic River and The Departed, Gone Baby Gone harbors many ambivalent secrets. People do awful things out of weakness and from a selfishness they persuade themselves is protective love. Affleck lays it all out with clarity and grit, though the actor in him can't help giving every star a big verbal aria. That guy--actor Affleck--probably also wishes he could star in a movie as smart and twisty and morally complex as this one is.