The Town – Review
Posted by Editor on October 10, 2010 | No Comments
FILM – The Town
PRODUCER – Basil Iwanyk
DIRECTOR – Ben Affleck
SCREENPLAY – Ben Affleck, Peter Craig, Aaron Stockard (Based on the novel ‘Prince of Thieves’ by Chuck Hogan.)
CAST – Ben Affleck, Rebecca Hall, Jon Hamm, Jeremy Renner, Blake Lively, Slaine, Owen Burke.
MUSIC – David Buckley, Harry Gregson-Williams
Based on the novel ‘Prince of Theives’ by Chuck Hogan, ‘The Town’ is no tale of the merry Robin and his merry-men in Sherwood Forest. Rather it is a grim story of life in Charlestown, an increasingly infamous town and its criminals.
At the outset, ‘The Town’ may seem a dubious tale of wayward youth caught in a microcosmic existence, redundant in its portrayal. But by the time it ends, it proves one thing. Ben Affleck’s nominations and Oscar’s for Gone Baby Gone were not just beginner’s luck.
Set in Charlestown, the most notorious town in Boston for its armed car and bank robberies, The Town tells a tale of a group of misfits, young boys who have made robbery their living. They are Doug MacRay (Ben Affleck), James Coughlin (Jeremy Renner), Albert Maglaon (Slaine) and Desmond Elden (Owen Burke). They work within a nexus, a web of decrepit men and women who have found this life of danger far more alluring.
During one such outing they take Claire, (Rebecca Hall) the bank manager of the bank they have just robbed, hostage and then set her free. But setting her free still means letting loose a link to them. Doug watches and follows her in the process falling in love with her. The thriller of mean men, machines and gore turns into a drama of self discovery as Doug continues to engage in his relationship with her, her love a sort of redemption for his evil present.
For Doug was a hockey star once. Abandoned by his junkie mother at the age of six and having a father who was in the same business of making the quick buck, Doug grows up in pain but has his moments of stardom. But they do not last and what they end up in is a decadent existence as an outlaw courting death every turn.
FBI man Frawley is on the tail of this gang and fast closing in. The dare-devilry of the stunts of the team and the lack of evidence spur him into a raging passion to capture them. Within this drama of crime and punishment is Claire, fighting her own devils of emotional trauma seeking solace in Doug’s love completely unaware of his reality.
All of this snowballs in an emotionally taut and visceral second half that peaks to its unconventional climax but not without its inherent wisdom and knowledge of life. ‘No matter how much we change, we all have to pay for what we have done.’ Insights like these wrap the film in a troubled blanket where the heavy hearted reside.
Ben Affleck’s direction, writing and portrayal of Doug MacRay are powerful yet understated. He draws the underbelly of Charlestown with its imploding emotions and frustrations. It is a real world made up of real difficulties. His voice is devoid of surreal, self-loathing indulgence. For these people existential angst is not about finding meaning in their existence, it about finding an existence that means something. He sketches Claire, someone not from this world, a ‘toonie’ as they call out-of-towner’s in Charlestown with the same brush. Her search is the same as theirs and there is nothing romantic about that vacancy they are all trying to fill.
Affleck uses editing and sound to his complete advantage. He infuses drama with a tactical control of visual and audio, and manages to stun even with shots that have had their better counterparts in cinema. Taut, blood-racing and energetic, the film picks its highs and lows carefully, meandering where it slowness is delicious and zooming when pace is called for.
The Town wins because of the vision behind it. It is executed masterfully and is definitely microcosmic. Yet, the heart and vision behind it are expansive and inclusive. The story and circumstance is standard but the depth invested in the themes and the levels that different threads are played out makes for absorbing drama.
It also makes for anticipation for Ben Affleck’s next.