Gone Baby Gone



Deeply affecting crime thriller for grownups.
  • Review Date: February 11, 2008
  • Rated: R
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 2007
  • Running Time: 114 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

This is a dark and dreary world, peopled by junkies, neglectful parents, drug dealers, corrupt cops, and morally bankrupt city officials. They lie and hurt to protect themselves and their livelihood, sometimes to the detriment of a child's life.


Heavy and brutal, and a sense of menace pervades the film. Guns are trained on people at point-blank range and fired fairly frequently, killing more than one victim (one scene reveals what happens when someone is shot in the head). Realistic, painful barroom brawls. Crimes are perpetrated against children, who are also severely neglected.


Some kissing and sexual innuendos, but nothing explicit. Some references to sexual acts.


Strong and frequent, including "c--ksucker," "pu--y," jackass," and the always-popular "f--k."


Nothing really obvious. Names of some drugs and the occasional store signage.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Viewers don't really see any explicit scenes in which characters shoot up or snort drugs, but there's lots of talk about it, including discussion of "bumping rails" (snorting drugs) in bathrooms and doing heroin. Plenty of drinking, especially in dark, seedy bars.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this crime thriller (which is Ben Affleck's directorial debut) is so disturbing in spots that it may even make adults flinch. It doesn't shy away from the story's dark elements -- of which a 4-year-old's abduction is just the beginning. There's also neglect, drug use, barroom brawls, gunplay, murder, and plenty of strong language (including "f--k"). That said, older teens and grown ups who do end up seeing it will likely be able to look past the base, repugnant characters and appreciate the leads, who are compassionate and dedicated and fight for justice.

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What's the story?

Based on Dennis Lehane's novel of the same name, Ben Affleck's directorial debut GONE BABY GONE stars Affleck's younger brother, Casey, in a subtle-yet-powerful performance as Patrick Kenzie. Patrick is a two-bit detective roped into the big time when he and his partner (business and otherwise), Angie Gennarro (Michelle Monaghan), are recruited by a neighbor to help investigate the disappearance of 4-year-old Amanda McCready (Madeline O'Brien). Amanda isn't like many of the kids who unfortunately find themselves plastered on network news when they're abducted; she's from Dorchester, a hardscrabble South Boston community addled by drugs and crime. Her mother, Helene (Amy Ryan, in a stunningly affecting -- and effective -- turn), is a junkie, and her father is nowhere to be found. Victims like Amanda are apt to fall through the proverbial cracks: Already, the cops haven't turned up anything. Despite their misgivings, Patrick and Angie may be the only hope Amanda has, but their choice to get involved -- and stay involved even when answers have already been "found" -- may change them, and their relationship, forever.

Is it any good?


An impressive, confidently helmed vehicle -- which ably mixes grit with heart -- Gone Baby Gone lays to rest any impression that Affleck's talent, much-lauded in the Good Will Hunting days, is no more. From the first frame on, Ben Affleck's affection -- and, more important, his respect -- for his native city is palpable; rather than romanticize it, he presents it as is, with the ugliness intact. Much has been made of the lengths he took to be authentic (he shot in Dorchester and cast locals in nearly every scene) and it pays off. The movie thankfully lacks the gloss of many other crime movies, even those that are well done (like Out of Sight, for example). Even the twist ending feels less like a device and more like an essential plot development. Lehane's story is grim, as is the film's palate and tone. It may even outdo another lauded Lehane-inspired film, Mystic River.

The film does take time to find its footing early on, slightly hobbled by too much exposition (this is the drug dealer; here's the possibly corrupt cop; etc.). And Angie's character is sadly lightweight (though Monaghan gives it the old college try). But Gone Baby Gone quickly gets into a groove, thanks in no small part to a stellar cast -- can Morgan Freeman and Ed Harris do wrong? -- and a script, penned by Ben Affleck and Aaron Stockard, that isn't afraid to be ambiguous and complicated. Much like this new incarnation of Affleck himself.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about why people will want to see this movie -- because of the story, or because Ben Affleck directed it? Why do you think some actors choose to go into directing? Which role gives them more power within the media industry, and why? Families can also discuss how the media handles stories about missing people, particularly children. Do you think cases are covered differently based on their circumstances (i.e. a child being kidnapped from a tough, working-class neighborhood instead of a pretty, manicured suburb)? If so, why?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:October 18, 2007
DVD release date:February 11, 2008
Cast:Casey Affleck, Ed Harris, Morgan Freeman
Director:Ben Affleck
Run time:114 minutes
MPAA rating:R
MPAA explanation:violence, drug content and pervasive language.

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  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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Adult Written bymaria1225 April 9, 2008
Teen, 15 years old Written bybubbo April 9, 2008

Gone Baby Gone

A fascinating, heartwrenching crime drama that brings up difficult moral questions and doesn't offer any easy answers. It's a dark and often disturbing movie, but a great one. I think this was really overlooked at the Oscars and Golden Globes.
Adult Written bydeevacath April 9, 2008


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