It’s easy to forget that before Gigli, Ben Affleck was not only a serious actor but a talented artist, winning an Oscar for his work on Good Will Hunting. The release of his directorial debut Gone Baby Gone harked a return to form, it was not only a good Affleck film but a fine film in its own right. Following on from his debut’s critical success, The Town joins the fast-emerging Boston sub-genre of film, accompanying films such as The Departed and Mystic River, as well as Affleck’s own Gone Baby Gone.
It is clear from Affleck’s directorial work to date that he has a preoccupation with the inhabitants of a particular area of Boston and their social status: the blue-collar, working man.
Affleck plays Doug MacRay, the intellectual amongst his gang of bank robbers, MacRay plans out each robbery before it takes place. Affleck opens the film with a pre-planned bank robbery, intercutting scenes of the raid underway with CCTV footage of the action; the footage serves to highlight the brutal nature of the crime and the violent nature of the gang themselves. The audience is left in little doubt that there is little to empathise with here; the gang are callous, briefly kidnapping Claire (Rebecca Hall) the assistant bank manager as insurance, until they can be sure they are safe.
Having taken Claire’s licence, the gang realise that she lives in close proximity to them, fearing they may be discovered and unaware of how much Claire saw, Affleck strikes up a friendship with her in the hope she may impart any knowledge she may have.
Claire importantly, is not a Bostonian, and is furthermore a world away from MacCray’s working-class background, her middle-class roots surely offering as much attraction for MacRay as Claire herself. Claire, in stark contrast to Blake Lively’s Krista (a previous romantic interest for MacRay), is an opportunity for redemption; an opportunity to start a new life and transcend his upbringing.
The cast is pitch-perfect, Blake Lively in particular displaying far more gravitas than her current stint in Gossip Girl has ever indicated. The Town is beautifully filmed, and Affleck is fast establishing himself as one of the finest young directors working today. An intelligent and near faultless film, Affleck’s film heralds the promise and now high-expectations of any future directorial work.