That term first came to my mind when, as a child, I’d try to say “stream of consciousness” and end up with “brainflow.” It seems to fit here.

Welcome to the ramblings of my mind. (For now, these ones revolve mostly around films.)

The Town

Saturday, September 25th, 2010 6:58 am—Film

The Town (USA 2010, Crime/Drama/Thriller), Writers: Peter Craig, Ben Affleck, Aaron Stockard; Director: Ben Affleck

I just read what I wrote about Ben Affleck’s directorial debut, Gone Baby Gone, and it’s pretty well in line with what I have to say about his sophomore effort, The Town. In a nutshell, The Town is a more sophisticated exploration of Boston’s criminal underworld, and offers a wonderful look at Affleck’s progression as a director.

Set in Boston’s Charlestown neighbourhood—a “breeding ground for bank and armoured-car robbers”—the movie follows a gang of “townies” who carry on the family tradition of lifting from area banks, and the FBI agents who are sworn to stop them. It opens with the crew of costumed thugs, including ringleaders Doug MacRay (Affleck) and James Coughlin (Jeremy Renner), making their latest hit. Led by Doug, the men rob the bank and make off with its manager, Claire Keesey (Rebecca Hall), as collateral.

Claire is released physically unharmed, but suffers the obvious psychological and emotional trauma of being kidnapped by armed robbers. As Doug and his team plan their next hit, he keeps an eye on Claire to determine whether or not she’s a threat—a “loose end” that needs to be tied off. It isn’t long before Doug falls for her and the two begin a relationship, with Claire unaware of his true identity.

The Town is based on Chuck Hogan’s prize-winning 2005 novel Prince of Thieves. Affleck co-wrote the screenplay, teaming up again with his Gone Baby Gone co-writer Aaron Stockard. As bank heist tales go, The Town’s storyline is utterly predictable, but it’s well written with a keen ear for dialogue and dialect. As director, Affleck does a very good job at creating tension. I love his decision to cut between the security camera footage and the live event during the opening robbery. With The Town, he irrefutably proves to be just as comfortable directing action as intimate moments between lovers.

As with his first film, Affleck also shows a gift for assembling a fabulous cast and eliciting wonderful performances. The ensemble includes heavyweights Chris Cooper and Pete Postlethwaite, as well as two of my new favourite actors—Renner, who was phenomenal in The Hurt Locker, and Hall, so very good in Vicky Cristina Barcelona.

I have only one main gripe about The Town. At its heart, the film seems to be about what happens when people try to break free of the life that has defined them, and whether it’s possible to truly make that break. But this theme is somewhat glossed over to make room for the FBI investigation, the cool shoot-outs and the love story, all of which somewhat lessens The Town’s impact for me.

Still, it’s a well-made film—one I’d see again, and one I liked even better than Gone Baby Gone. Affleck seems to have found his place in the industry, and it fits him very well. I look forward to his next film.

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