OK, OK, OK, I take it all back. He’s NOT “Flobby Ben Affleck” any more, OK? I get it. He’s a lean mean fighting machine. And in The Town, which he also directed with flair, he is electrifyingly good.
Set in the Charlestown area of Boston that’s apparently reknowned for its national ranking in bank robberies, Affleck plays a gang member who’s disillusioned with the life and yearning for some kind of redemption. He thinks he’s found it in a sweet bank manageress (Rebecca Hall) who he meets when he’s raiding her bank. Fortunately he’s wearing a plastic mask at the time so she doesn’t recognise him.
But the plot say his thuggish buddies think she might, and the resolute FBI agent in hot pursuit (drop-dead-Jon-Hamm, also excellent) also thinks she might, and so everyone is torn and pulled and pressurised in every direction: it’s almost perfect plotting. (so perfect there’s just a teensy sneaking sense we’ve seen it before.) But that minor winge aside, the entire cast is first rate, the action scenes are right up there with some of the best, and the whole experience is tense, edge-of-your-seat terrific. Certainly my top film of the year to date. Oh yes, Benjy, you’re back in my good books for the first time since, well….probably ever.
Boston too – and Charlestown in particular – what a place? I’m so used to seeing American cities that are sort of post-Victorian. Instead Boston seems a jumble of narrow maze-like streets and flattened vowels. It’s sort of like Paris. The car chases through the lanes and alleys are thrilling, and the director makes great use of aerial shots to capture the intimacy of the Town compared to the rest of the city. The climactic scene takes place in and around Fenwick Park baseball stadium, something which must have taken some nifty footwork to pull off.