The Town

14 Oct

Title: The Town
Year: 2010
Director: Ben Affleck
Writers: Ben Affleck, Peter Craig and Aaron Stockard based on the novel by Chuck Hogan
Starring: Ben Affleck, Jon Hamm, Rebecca Hall, Jeremy Renner, Blake Lively, Pete Postlethwaite, Chris Cooper
MPAA Rating: R, strong violence, pervasive language, some sexuality and drug use
Runtime: 125 min
Major Awards: 1 NBR Award
IMDb Rating: 8.0
Rotten Tomatoes: 94%

This film is being referred to as “Ben Affleck’s comeback”, and in many ways it is, it shows Mr. Affleck directing a seriously terrific film, co-writing a tremendously smart script, and headlining a fantastic cast. However, the comeback started in 2007, when Mr. Affleck first realized that he should direct and crafted the sublime Gone Baby Gone, that’s when the comeback started, and this is when the comeback is cemented, because Gone Baby Gone was a smaller sort of film, that, while critically acclaimed, made under $35 million, while The Town has already made more than $85 million, and still has legs in it.

But yes, calling The Town Mr. Affleck’s comeback is accurate enough, even though Gone Baby Gone was the first step, and it was a pretty perfect directorial debut, this one is a more confident effort and one in which Mr. Affleck also acts, which he didn’t do in his first attempt at directing, and in all honesty, this is the one shows that Mr. Affleck is a fine director and that he wasn’t a one-hit-wonder, he’s a man to be reckoned with.

The Town is many things, it has a very human side to it, but it’s all masked under the heist film aspect of it, and Mr. Affleck is such a good director that he truly makes you want with all your might that these bunch of criminals end up succeeding unscathed. And achieving that feeling as a director is something that’s easier said than done, and something that, if achieved, should be seen as a terrific accomplishment, and an accomplishment that Mr. Affleck in this one seems to get down rather effortlessly.

The film set in a part of Charlestown, in Mr. Affleck’s beloved Boston. And we are told that this is where the largest quantity of thieves and bank robbers in the nation live, and Mr. Affleck plays a second-generation bank robber, Doug McRay, the leader of a four-man clan who are pretty good at what they do, and the intricacies of the complex planning that goes into their jobs usually pay off. That is until, Jem, the wild one of the crew, played by a very efficient Jeremy Renner, breaks a rule and kidnaps a civilian in the heat of the moment during a job.

The civilian is Claire, played by Rebecca Hall, the fantastic British actress who also appeared in this year’s very good Please Give, and who I’m hoping will be better known to American audiences after her role in this one. But anyways, kidnapping Claire is a pivotal part of the film because, after releasing her shortly after Jem impulsively takes her, they find out Claire lives in town, and so Doug decides to check up on her, to meet her and find out if she saw any faces or heard anything she shouldn’t have. But then of course, he starts liking her, and she starts liking him back, her not knowing who he really is, him not really telling her.

And so we have to deal with how that makes Doug feel, how he starts reconsidering everything after meeting Claire. All of while there’s an FBI team, led by Jon Hamm’s character, plus some terrific scenes with Doug’s father, played by an outstanding Chris Cooper. This really is a film that has a bit of everything, and you can tell it has a lot to do with how good Mr. Affleck is as a director.

Many actors have done the transition into filmmaking, a few of them scoring Oscars in the process, and I think that, even though he’s only done two films, Mr. Affleck has already joined the best people in that list, he’s right up there with Ron Howard and Clint Eastwood as the best actors-turned-directors in my list. His directorial talents are on full display in The Town, and it shows how he, being one himself, is so good working with other actors. He gets amazing performances from everyone, even from Blake Lively who I was kinda nervous for, while managing to keep the pacing of the film fantastically, and delivering an overall great end result.

I went into The Town being ready to embrace it, mostly because I had seen and adored Gone Baby Gone when it came out, but I ended up loving The Town for different reasons, this one, while still very human, just isn’t as emotionally charged as the former, it’s a film that’s larger and more intricate in scope, and that deals with more than one thing, but that still retains the directorial vision Mr. Affleck presented us with on his debut.

Now, I feel like I’ve spent most of this review talking about how good a director Mr. Affleck is, and rightfully so because he’s tremendous. But let’s talk about the acting for a while, here’s a guy that is, to me, rather underrated as an actor. Sure, that’s mostly because people like to remember Gigli, which was a trainwreck, but the guy has given solid performances in films like Hollywoodland and Shakespeare in Love, but those were certainly more supporting performances, and I think that in this one he gives the best leading performances he’s given to date. Not to mention that absolutely everyone in this film gets the accent right, and I don’t think there’s been many Boston-set films in which every actor gets that accent right.

I really loved The Town, I thought the romance part of it was balanced incredibly well because it gave a gentler side to the violence of it all, and it was the window into Mr. Affleck’s character. This is a very tense film, that finds Mr. Affleck giving, as I said, the best lead performance of his career yet, and surrounding himself with other actors at the top of her game, Chris Cooper as I said was terrific in his short role, Jon Hamm was as poised as always, providing a really put-together antidote to the crime side of the tale, Jeremy Renner, in a role really different from last year’s star-making turn in The Hurt Locker, was seriously rivetting as Jem, Rebecca Hall was also unbelievable, and even Blake Lively ended up giving a really solid performance.

That should be enough for you to know just how great The Town is, and should be enough to convince anyone that Ben Affleck is the real deal as a director and as an actor. Here’s to him, and hopefully this one will get the Best Picture nomination I think it deserves come Oscar time.

Grade: A+


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