Ben Affleck writes, directs, and acts in the crime thriller “The Town”. After hitting a huge slump in the early 2000s with cinematic turds like “Pearl Harbor” and “Gigli”, Affleck has re-invented himself as a director (and a great one at that). His first film “Gone Baby Gone” was the signal of a great directorial talent arriving, and he fully delivers on that promise with “The Town”.
The film is set in the Boston neighborhood of Charlestown, described as “the bank robbery capital of America”. Just as some fathers pass on family businesses to their sons, here fathers pass on bank robbery to their sons. Doug Macray, played by Affleck, has lived in this town, robbing banks and armored cars all his life. But when he falls in love with Claire, the manager of a bank his squad has recently robbed, he finds himself at a crossroads between the woman he loves and the job he’s known all his life.
“The Town” is a very satisfying piece of entertainment that succeeds as a heist flick, as a story of a guy changing his ways and as a straight up thriller. The best part of the film is the sense of atmosphere and grittiness that Ben Affleck conjures in his Boston setting. He really knows how to shoot the environment in a distinctive, stand-out way, and I applaud him for it.
Although there are only two or three actual sequences of the characters practicing their trade (bank robbery), they are some of the most stand-out set pieces I’ve seen in a film all year. Assuredly directed and well-paced, rest assured that despite many memorable dialogue-driven scenes, the heist sequences are the highlights of the movie.
The acting is pretty damn fantastic in this film. Affleck directs himself in what is probably the best, richest performance in his entire career. Rebecca Hall plays his love interest, Claire. She delivers a good performance but I feel her character is very under-developed, but I suppose thats a fault with the script and not the actress. Jon Hamm of “Mad Men” plays an FBI squad leader dedicated to bringing down Doug, and he delivers his lines with the necessary level of conviction. The stand-out performance is, no doubt, Jeremy Renner as Jem, a loose-cannon member of Doug’s robber squad. He brings an intensity to his character that is really interesting to watch, and I believe he deserves a Best Supporting Actor nomination.
All this said, I had a few issues with “The Town”. The love sub-plot between Doug and Claire, on which most of the action in the film is based, was very under-developed I think. Their chemistry was fleshed-out well, I just think the movie never really built up their character’s longing for each other the way it should have. And although the ending to this movie is truly fantastic in every way, the final shot feels more artificial and tacked-on every time I think about it.
Overall, “The Town” is a very enjoyable movie that blends style, action, and substance. With stand-out action sequences and a great cast, the movie cements Ben Affleck as both an actor to admire and a director to be excited about. After 17 years in the business, he’s finally found his place.