Directed by: Ben Affleck
Starring: Ben Affleck, Jon Hamm, Rebecca Hall
Cops and Robbers. We all played it when we were younger, and we’ve watched countless others play it for our viewing pleasure. In fact, making a list of all the heist films currently in existence would take about a week for anyone to complete, hence why the apprehension I’d garnered towards Ben Affleck’s The Town came about as a result of my overexposure to this seemingly familiar formula. While more recent examples have sported similarly clever plot devices, twists and palpable instances of adrenaline-pumping mayhem, what Affleck and the gang have produced can be classified as a whip-smart mash-up of both pure formula and a more complex, multi-layered thrill ride that goes miles deeper than just your typical cat-and-mouse crime caper.
Almost immediately, the exceedingly grim Charlestown, Massachusetts setting establishes itself as the absolute perfect backdrop for any and everything that occurs throughout The Town‘s 2-hour run time. We’re informed of the town’s plight, and therefore can accept the lifestyles the central characters have established for themselves after we learn just when and why each was dealt a bad hand. The script itself does a wonderful job in humanizing these criminal masterminds, allowing ample time for their overall development in between the requisite heist footage that’s both compelling and wrought with tension. Even as Affleck’s Doug begins to open up, revealing to all that what he desires most following their latest job is to leave the game for good and settle down elsewhere, conflict reigns supreme, leaving us in the dark as to what will come of the mess Doug’s created for all involved through his relationship with Claire.
Affleck’s direction is also surprisingly on point, exhibiting an ample amount of skill in balancing the film’s more sensitive side with it’s frenetic, overtly macho alter ego. The film’s pacing is equally appropriate, even if it falters a bit in stuffing every last desired detail into the mix to make sure each transition from scene to scene is made as smooth as possible. Like I stated previously, The Town deftly combines the unconventional with the conventional in giving an otherwise straightforward heist film a heart, putting forth a substantial amount of emotion where it counts the most and transforming the entire production into something different and reasonably involving. It may teeter on the brink of melodrama at points, which can prove to be a glaring flaw in some cases, but Affleck doesn’t hesitate to kick things back into full swing and hit us with something a bit more upbeat when the timing is right.
Stellar casting choices further elevate The Town to new heights, with Affleck himself giving one of his better performances in recent memory, proving to us the general public that maybe he’s not so bad after all. His onscreen love interest Claire, played by Rebecca Hall, interacts with Affleck’s Doug wonderfully and tackles her character’s emotionally taxing experiences in a believable manner that isn’t distractingly over-the-top. Costars Jon Hamm, Jeremy Renner and even Blake Lively in a potentially positive (and surprising) career turn give equally worthwhile efforts teeming with authenticity and chemistry abound. To say that most, if not all The Town‘s more noticeable faults can be forgiven on account of these performances wouldn’t be hyperbolic in the slightest, even if the film itself remains thoroughly impressive in conjunction with the individuals it puts on display.
Having still not seen 2007’s Gone Baby Gone, I can safely say that this year’s The Town serves as a solid testament to Affleck’s newfound knack as a director and is easily one of the better experiences I’ve had at the theater this year. It gives a tried-and-true heist movie formula an appreciable emotional underbelly that functions well on its own and doesn’t take away from the simply stellar heist sequences themselves. Said emotion remains believable throughout thanks to terrific performances from all involved, and an appealing air of tension aids in keeping you on the edge of your seat when it counts the most. Despite dipping periodically into the realm of the melodramatic, The Town stands proud as one of 2010’s most accomplished cinematic achievements and one of my personal favorites.