Ben Affleck in my books is two for two as a director. Gone Baby Gone was one of the best films to be released in 2007, and in my opinion The Town follows suit being one of the top films for 2010. Both films are crime drama’s, adapted from a source material. The main difference being, that his younger brother Casey was the star in Gone Baby Gone, here Ben himself takes the lead. The Town takes place in the town of Charlestown, a neighborhood in Boston. It is a place known for it’s high rate of armed robberies, and the people who commit these robberies are suspected to be locals. This brings us to a bank robbery, the guys doing the job are Doug MacRay (Ben Affleck), James Coughlin (Jeremy Renner), Albert Magloan (Slain) and Desmond Elden (Owen Burke). They are life long friends, but things get complicated when a hostage is needed Claire (Rebecca Hall) and they fear she might be able to idenify them to the FBI (lead by Jon Hamm). Doug starts a relationship with Claire, she doesn’t known who he really is, but with more robberies planned and the FBI closing in, something’s got to give.
At it’s core The Town is about the place you live in, and how it makes you. Doug is a product of where he lives, who he’s grown up with, and what he thinks he should be. His father (Chris Cooper) was a career criminal, and Doug seems to be following in his foot steps, even without realising what he’s doing. Doug doesn’t have much in his life, he has his legitimate job, crime on the side, his best friend James, their friends, occasional hook up with James’ sister Krista (Blake Lively) and not much else. He is a sad character in a way, as we can see he wants more but just doesn’t know how to get there. Deep down he is a good guy, but he doesn’t have a lot to get himself there. The big thing holding him back is James, his best friend for most of his life, he’s loyal to him, but James is a loose cannon. All these elements set the film in motion, while Doug’s relationship with Claire turns out to be very sweet, you know it wont last. That is the big point in the film from the time they actually meet. The entire film is like one big dangerous game, in a way it reminded me of Point Break, even though they don’t have much in common.
The film is filled with fantastic performances, from all over the board. No one in this film gives anything less, this is thanks to their own talents but a great script (which Affleck co-wrote) and great direction. Ben Affleck has been doing great the last few years, having put his low points (Gigli) behind him. He’s in top form here, and he’s developed a strong and interesting character. Rebecca Hall is not only gorgeous but she has created a sympathetic character with Claire. There is so much conflict as a viewer seeing what they do to her with the robbery and Doug pursuing a relationship with her. Jon Hamm as FBI Special Agent Frawley is the typical guy who has a job to do and will stop at nothing to bring in the robbers. This is nothing like the Jon Hamm we see in Mad Men, and he proves he can definitely successfully play very different roles. The scene stealer and most memorable character and performance come from Jeremy Renner. I covered his performance in my Spotlight On series (here), and as I said there he took what was a cliched character and turned it into something memorable. James is that loose cannon type, loyal to his friends, but you don’t want to cross him or get in his way. If anything, he’s likely to be the thing you’ll most remember when you come away from this film. Showing she is more than just a Gossip Girl Blake Lively turns in a great performance as James’ sister Krista, the trashy town girl with a kid in tow. I wasn’t surprised she was so good in this and I knew she had it in her and I hope this leads her to bigger and better things. Bit players Pete Postlethwaite and Chris Cooper are both fantastic in their roles, always great to see them both on screen.
The Town is a film I can easily recommend and I really hope more people do check this out. Ben Affleck has come a long way and I think directing is the way to go for him. Not saying he shouldn’t act anymore, he should but in the right roles. Doug was perfect for him, as was this film as a whole. Everything about it was great, I didn’t mind much at all to fault here. Perhaps maybe 10 minutes could have been cut, but even then it could have been 10 minutes longer. There’s stories to tell and they’re told well, from the opening of the film it certainly had me hooked in. The action and violent scenes are well handled, as well as character developments and showing us their motivations for what they are doing. This film was one of my most anticipated for the year and it did not let me down.