Friday, September 17, 2010

Film Review: The Town

Three years ago, critics welcomed Gone Baby Gone by saying that Ben Affleck had finally found his muse in the form of directing. At the time, I felt that it was a bit of a jump, as I do for any film from a first time director. However, seeing as Affleck pulled out another spectacular film in his sophomore effort solidifies him as an up and coming filmmaker. It's hard to get an idea in your head of him directing, because we're used to seeing him playing dumb and emotionless characters. Here he displays ace directing and pretty decent acting as well.

The Town would've been the best heist film of the year if it weren't for a little film called Inception, but it makes a close second place. It's set in Charlestown, one of the most crime infested neighborhoods in Boston. Affleck plays Doug MacRay, an intelligent and calm leader of a group of bank robbers. The opening scene of the film drops us right into the action with a heist going exactly as planned without a hitch, except one Claire Keesey. After tracking her down to ensure that she doesn't tell too much to the FBI, Doug falls for her.

One of the sub-genres I most appreciate is the heist film, because when they do it right, you can't help but appreciate all the thought they put into it. You can't be just another dumb grunt to pull off anything like the stuff Dougy and the gang are dealing with. You have to be precise, and you have to be willing to make sacrifices. The heists in The Town aren't just precise, but they're also intense action set-pieces that easily trump films like The A-Team. You know from the beginning to the end that they're eventually going to get jammed up. That sense of foreboding stays with you throughout the entire film.

This film contains one of my all-time favorite ensemble casts, with everybody bringing something to the table. Though it isn't saying much, this is Ben Affleck's best performance to date, and he's moving in the right direction. His role could've been played by somebody else, but he's able to hold the film together from both sides of the camera, and that's very prevalent here. Rebecca Hall nicely fits the role of Claire, and she's more than just a pretty face. She's going through a lot of trauma, and though Doug keeps trying to help her, their entire situation is just too much for her.

Titus Welliver, better known as the Man in Black from Lost, gets a small role, but he makes the best of the little screen time he is afforded. Pete Postlethwaite is pretty intense as the main villain of this story. His one or two scenes with Affleck add so much to the story. Blake Lively also inhabits a smaller role than most of the players, and she's pretty much cast as your typical coked-out prostitute mother that I hope she isn't given too much of in the future. She does some nice work here.

Finally, we get to my favorites in the film. Jon Hamm may be the guy who's trying to crunch in on our protagonists, but he pulls it off with style and class, as per usual. I was always leaning forward whenever he showed up on the screen. It's a semi-one-dimensional role, but his work with it suggests that he deserves bigger and better roles in the future. Then there's Jeremy Renner, who does a good job at playing both the loyalty and betrayal that his character, Jem Coughlin, is feeling towards Doug MacRay. His accent was so dead-on that I wasn't able to understand some of the things he was saying. That alone is incentive enough to see this film again.

Robert Elswit does some slick and silvery cinematography that greatly amplifies the genre film atmosphere of the film. If I have one quibble with this production, it's the score by Harry Gregson-Williams and David Buckley. It definitely delivers during the action scenes of the film, but it didn't work in some of the more personal moments. It just didn't fit where it should have. The Town has a very firm grip on the audience's attention from the get-go, and that's what delivers the emotional intensity of this picture. It's definitely a must see for anybody who enjoys thrilling, quality entertainment.


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