Like a phoenix risen from the ashes of Gigli and Jersey Girl, Ben Affleck lives up to his early promise with the accomplished crime thriller The Town. The film deserves its place at the top of the United States box office, and will most likely replicate this success when it is released in the UK this weekend.
Bank robber Doug McKray decides to befriend a woman who was taken hostage by his crew, to discover how much she has told police. When a relationship flourishes between the two, Doug finds it difficult to balance this new development with his life of crime…
Affleck proves himself to be a competent director with The Town. He appears as adept in directing big action sequences as he does with the quieter, more emotional scenes. The action scenes in particular are frenetic in their editing; cutting frequently between long shots, close-ups and different points of view. This goes a long way to generate the tension that runs throughout the film.
The Town deftly manoeuvres between the gritty reality of crime and poverty and a high-octane action movie. The film works well as it does not allow itself to get too entrenched in the pessimism of deprivation, yet at the same time has more depth than most run-of-the-mill action thrillers. To some, the romance between Doug and Claire may seem contrived, but it is integral in its function as a catalyst to propel the events that follow.
As protagonist Doug, Affleck is measured in revealing his feelings; maintaining a calm that make the spurts of aggression or emotion appear authentic and in-keeping with the character. There are the prerequisite shades of grey so ingrained in a character such as this. Neither wholly good nor bad, Doug weighs heavy with the burden of his actions but strives for something more than the Charlestown way.
Jeremy Renner is excellent as loose-cannon best friend Jem. Renner effectively portrays the violence of the character, thus illustrating a stark contrast between the outlook and ideals of the two best friends. Blake Lively gives an admirable performance as the sister of Jem, and sometime girlfriend of Doug. Lively exhibits a range greater than her Gossip Girl appearances would suggest. Elsewhere, both Jon Hamm and Rebecca Hall put in decent performances in their respective roles.
The Town is an effective thriller precisely because it maintains the element of suspense throughout. It is never clear which way events will turn, or exactly how the film will reach its conclusion. Affleck’s aptitude for suspense demonstrated in The Town will undoubtedly produce much anticipation for his next effort.