The Town (4.5 of 5)
Ben Affleck’s ‘The Town’ is maybe the best movie (new release) that I’ve seen all year and I’ve seen several really good ones. It’s not a good film, by any means, though. It’s a GREAT film; better than Affleck’s directorial debut ‘Gone Baby, Gone’, and that one is #46 on my Top 100 Bst Films of the 2000s, so I have high regard for Mr. Affleck’s filmmaking abilities.
This movie quiets any detractors that hie first effort was a fluke. Every aspect of the film is handled well. He moves the camera around in the quieter scenes a la Robert Altman and handles the Bourne-esque action scenes with equal deftness. The visuals are professional looking if nothing else. I enjoyed the soundtrack also. It had one of the more fitting end credit tracks and fits how it ends.
The cast fits the definition of ‘ensemble’, starting with Affleck himself. He’s been unfairly judged in the past as a bad actor, mainly because of offscreen perceptions. He’s done a pretty solid job in most of the roles he’s been in, but he had to direct himself to get his best part. He’s outstanding and believable in the lead role as the unofficial leader of a band of bank robbers.
Renner is even better here than he was in the Hurt Locker (see my review as to what I thought of that one). He plays the somewhat violent best friend that is a little too volatile to succeed in crime for too long. Chris Cooper makes a brief but pivotal appearance. Affleck manages to keep all of the performances gritty and grounded, even in the case of Pete Postlethwaite who can quickly move into camp territory if the leash is let out too far.
For me, Jon Hamm practically steals the show as the FBI agent leading the investigation into the bank heists (and the other types of heists). His part is smartly written and he helps to ratchet up the tension very early on in the film.
The real outstanding performances though, come from the 2 main actresses, Rebecca Hall and Blake Lively, who both have a wider range of emotional states that they have to convey than the other actors. Lively especially is good as Krista, the somewhat self destructive young mother. She might have an outside shot at some awards.
The quieter scenes hold your attention almost as well as the violence, of which there’s a good bit of the gun fighting variety. The story is told very clearly but isn’t always predictable. You really don’t know how it’s going to end up. Probably, this is the best movie of its kind (the bank robbin’ variety). I really can’t think of a better one that I’ve seen.
I look forward to seeing Affleck’s next directing effort. He’s an intelligent guy and his movies where he’s been involved behind the camera (writing and directing…) reflect that. In the meantime, I’ll probably go see this one again. 4.5 of 5 whatevers.