“Gone Baby Gone,” review by Susan Granger

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Ben Affleck makes a powerful directorial debut with this timely yet perplexing crime thriller about two private investigators searching for an abducted four year-old Boston girl.

No one could call irresponsible Helen McCready (Amy Ryan) a good mother. An admitted substance abuser (alcohol, cocaine, heroin), she’s thrust into the media spotlight when her four year-old daughter, Amanda, is kidnapped from their dingy apartment.

Distraught and dissatisfied with the investigation led by Capt. James Doyle (Morgan Freeman) and his Crimes Against Children unit, Amy’s aunt, Bea McCready (Amy Madigan) and her husband, Lionel (Titus Welliver), hire a team of young private detectives (Casey Affleck, Michelle Monaghan) who are familiar with the seedy denizens of their Dorchester neighborhood’s tight-knit underworld. Reluctantly, Capt. Doyle agrees to let them work with his experienced cops (Ed Harris, John Ashton), and they soon discover that $130,000 belonging to an unsavory Haitian drug dealer known as ‘Cheese’ (Edi Gathegi) went missing not long before Amanda disappeared. Could there be a connection?

Adapted from a novel by Dennis Lehane (“Mystic River”) by Aaron Stockard and Ben Affleck – who won an Oscar for co-writing “Good Will Hunting” – it’s filled with intriguing moral and ethical ambiguity. As a Boston native working with cinematographer John Toll, Affleck achieves the emotion-driven, working-class authenticity essential to the story’s believability.

Fresh from his villainous performance in “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford,” Casey Affleck (Ben’s younger brother) demonstrates his versatility as the perseverant, albeit baby-faced private eye. (In an amusing jibe, he’s told to go back to his Harry Potter book.)

On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Gone, Baby, Gone” is an enigmatic 8 – with a challenging conclusion that’s bound to ignite conversation after the lights go on.

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Susan Granger

Susan Granger is a product of Hollywood. Her natural father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a director and producer at R.K.O., M.G.M. and Columbia Pictures; her adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, produced movies at M.G.M. As a child, Susan appeared in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Margaret O'Brien and Lassie. She attended Mills College in California, studying journalism with Pierre Salinger, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, Phi Beta Kappa, with highest honors in journalism. During her adult life, Susan has been on radio and television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic. Her newspaper reviews have been syndicated around the world, and she has appeared on American Movie Classics cable television. In addition, her celebrity interviews and articles have been published in REDBOOK, PLAYBOY, FAMILY CIRCLE, COSMOPOLITAN, WORKING WOMAN and THE NEW YORK TIMES, as well as in PARIS MATCH, ELLE, HELLO, CARIBBEAN WORLD, ISLAND LIFE, MACO DESTINATIONS, NEWS LIMITED NEWSPAPERS (Australia), UK DAILY MAIL, UK SUNDAY MIRROR, DS (France), LA REPUBBLICA (Italy), BUNTE (Germany), VIP TRAVELLER (Krisworld) and many other international publications through SSG Syndicate. Susan also lectures on the "Magic and Mythology of Hollywood" and "Don't Take It Personally: Conquering Criticism and other Survival Skills," originally published on tape by Dove Audio.