The Town

The Town suffers from a somewhat predictable storyline, yet maintains a riveting human drama through its runtime.

With The Town, Ben Affleck again proves how good a director he is, and that his first film was no fluke. Affleck has a knack for telling a story for the big screen, and combined with his writing – some wonderful lines these characters speak, although in a Bostonian accent that is not easy to decipher –Affleck successfully joins the ranks of some of the best writer-directors in contemporary Hollywood. The Town does suffer somewhat of a predictable storyline, probably owing more to the book the movie is based on, yet maintains a riveting human drama through its runtime.

Reminiscent of Affleck’s debut feature Gone Baby GoneThe Town is also set in Boston, among its blue-collar residents, and the crimes that surround them. Good friends Doug MacRay (Ben Affleck) and Jem Coughlin (Jeremy Renner) are two of a four-man team of bank robbers in Charlestown, defined in an opening text as the “bank robbery capital of the world”. Bank manager Claire Keesey (Rebecca Hall) was taken hostage in one of their heists, released unharmed shortly after. Staying in the same neighbourhood Doug eventually befriends Claire. In his attempt to give up a life of crime, Doug must deal with Jem, reveal his past to Claire, complete one final robbery for the local crime boss and avoid getting caught by FBI agent Adam Frawley (Jon Hamm).

Affleck’s strength as a director is on ample display here. He deftly handles the human drama and the action sequences with equal intensity. In the opening bank robbery scene, Affleck the director executes the scene much like his character executes the robbery on-screen: breathless, rushed and precise. Gun-fights and a car-chase sequence are equally riveting, matching the tone of the movie in being more gritty than stylish. In at least two shots, the camera lingers on an actor wearing an expression-less Halloween mask, first of a skull and later of an old nun, to an eerie effect. The movie plies these sequences built around a sturdy drama that keeps it real. Although Ben Affleck, Jeremy Renner, Rebecca Hall, Jon Hamm and Blake Lively play stock characters with oft-seen issues, the words they speak and the relationships they share bring them to life and make them worth caring for. Typical scenarios become thrilling and memorable. The movie also does well to steal a few light moments amidst those of tense drama.

Gone Baby Gone showed us Affleck’s strengths in direction. The Town shows us some more strengths, and a few of his flaws. The Town suffers from predictability; not much happens that is unexpected. Affleck needs to be equally smart in selecting the story he wants to tell as he is in telling them. Gone Baby Gone proves to be his better movie because, even though directed and performed equally well, it had a better storyline and a much better finale. The last scene of The Town is disappointingly monotonous, robbing the movie of some of its accomplishments.

The Town is a well-executed and mature film. It is a solid thriller and an able drama. Its flaws are few and the strengths more than make up for it. With his first two movies Ben Affleck has raised the bar against which he will be measured. The promise that this movie holds to his future in film-making is a very exciting prospect for film fans.

Rating: ★★★★☆

About Shariq Madani

Shariq is a social, talkative, fun-loving guy who enjoys books, food and a long drive. But his real joy is in the comfortable darkness of a cinema, watching a good movie, and later spending hours discussing it.