The musings of a feminist pop culture fanatic

#1 The Town (9/17, 9/24)

EW Description: “Ben Affleck’s second directorial effort takes him back to Boston for an R-rated drama about a bank heist. Even with a star-studded cast, the cops-and-robbers tale has a blunt authenticity that makes for a tense, jangly thriller.”

Ben Affleck is well on his way to making a successful transition from actor to director. This film shows that Gone Baby Gone was not a fluke and he is an incredibly talented young director. Much of this film showcases a lot of young talent that deserves far more than the parts they are normally given.

Here’s the basic plot: Doug (Ben Affleck) is a bank robber. After taking the bank manager of Cambridge Merchants hostage during a heist, Doug checks in on her a couple days later to be sure she doesn’t know anything about who took her and that she isn’t a threat to them. Of course, the bank manager Claire (Rebecca Hall) doesn’t recgonize Doug’s voice and she and Doug ultimately fall for each other. Doug wants to get out of the business, but his friend Jem (Jeremy Renner) doesn’t want to see that happen. He knows that Doug wants to leave and he doesn’t want to see his best friend go. Also in the picture is Jem’s sister Krista (Blake Lively) who has been in love with Doug for her entire life. Doug, Jem and the other members of their crew are also under fire because the FBI is on to them. Jon Hamm plays the lead FBI agent who wants nothing more than to nail all the guys in the gang, but especially Doug.

Affleck does a really great job with Doug, but it’s not a particularly complex role. It’s the typical antihero. The characters surrounding him are far more complex and interesting. Hall does a terrific job as Claire, particularly when she is coping with the trauma of being taken hostage and after she finds out her new boyfriend was involved in the crime. You really feel for her and hurt with her. Renner is amazing as always. Jem could have been just a run-of-the-mill thug, but Renner brought heart to the character and made the audience almost sympathize with him. I firmly believe Renner is one of the most talented actors in Hollywood right now and it’s nice to see him getting some really meaty roles. Hamm is wonderful as usual, but there weren’t a lot of layers to his character. He was the typical FBI agent who wanted to catch the bad guys. He did terrific with what he was given, but he wasn’t meant to be the focal point of the film.

Lively was perhaps the most surprising to me, though. She’s most known for her roles as Bridget in “The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants” films and Serena on The CW’s “Gossip Girl.” Neither of these are particularly challenging dramatic roles. Now, she’s playing an alcoholic young mother who is addicted to cocaine and Oxycontin. She is absolutely fantastic in her role. I thought she was one of the most complex characters and Lively did a phenomenal job. I wouldn’t be surprised if she ends up with a Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination and I feel it would be well-deserved.

It is clear that Affleck’s muse is Boston and he showcases it throughout the film. All the action scenes are well-directed without being too over the top. He’s also not afraid to be more simplistic with scenes in which the characters are driving the action. All in all, I think Affleck could become his generation’s Clint Eastwood. I am eager to see what Affleck directs next.

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