Ben Affleck baffles me. Before I started watching The Town, I asked myself, what good films have I actually seen Ben Affleck in? Nothing instantly sprung to mind. He didn’t seem to have that one film or collection of films that you reeled off when anyone asked for your favourite Ben Affleck film. Ask me about Matt Damon, I can do it no problem (in fact that led me to remember Affleck was in Dogma) but Affleck doesn’t seem to have that one, stand-out, famous role.
Daredevil could have been it but it tried too hard to be like all other comic book films being made at the time rather than being something different. (Something I hope they rectify with a remake/reboot) He has had starring roles in other films, like Pearl Harbour, Paycheck, Changing Lanes and of course Gigli, but nothing that would warrant his fame and Hollywood credibility.
That being said, Ben Affleck did actually lose that Hollywood credibility with Gigli and for a while he faded into the background. As I understand it, The Town was his relaunch, his moment to rebrand and recreate himself and show that he has a talent for writing, acting and directing that we recognised at the beginning of his career (even giving him an Oscar for his screenplay, Good Will Hunting). If that was in fact the case, The Town ticks every one of those boxes.
It is almost two films. It begins with a well executed, realistic bank robbery which reminded me more than a little bit of the beginning of The Dark Knight (not a bad thing.) From this action packed opening we then get something much more character driven as a relationship develops between Affleck’s character and a hostage he inadvertently took during the opening robbery, she being unaware of who he actually is. As well as this tense romance, we also have the relationship between Affleck and his best friend, the unhinged James Coughlin played brilliantly by Jeremy Renner.
It’s Jeremy Renner that makes this film so watchable. His character is unnerving and unpredictable. He takes things too far and is the reason a hostage was taken in the first place. He clashes with the straight-laced, sensible Doug Macray (Affleck) but the two depend on each other, or at least Renner’s character depends on Affleck’s.
The story isn’t a straight, boy kidnaps girl, girl falls for kidnapper but doesn’t realise he is her kidnapper, wait for reveal and drama but has so much more to it. Affleck’s character wants to get away from his past and The Town in question, Pete Postlethwaite plays the Irish gangster effortlessly well and Jon Hamm is the man chasing the robbers and making Affleck’s life difficult. There are so many intertwined strands to the story that it keeps you engaged, as each person tries to keep their cards close to their chest, while trying to see each others. Add to this unfolding drama some fantastic, gritty and fast paced action sequences and you have a brilliant, effective film.
As the film reaches its climax, I was left guessing as to how it would resolve itself. Thankfully, Affleck gave us an ending that didn’t fall into the predictable area that a lot of other films may have gone for. Affleck takes the time to build the characters and their relationships so when the film doesn’t quiet resolve itself as you may expect, you are actually left happier this way, as it fits well with what has gone before.
Overall, if this was Affleck’s attempt to revive his career or show a more mature, focused and serious filmmaker than he has succeeded. The Town is an interesting, engaging and often exciting film that kept me guessing and also at times, on the edge of my seat. I can’t wait to see what Affleck produces next and when people ask me for my favourite Ben Affleck film, I’ll have an answer now.
(1 – Awful, 2 – Average, 3 – Good, 4 – Great, 5! – Must See)