Affleck Channels Scorsese, Offers Unparalleled Intensity
Ben Affleck, Rebecca Hall, Jon Hamm, Jeremy Renner
Ben Affleck’s career is a series of hits and misses; as an actor, he’s been in films ranging from Academy Award winners to “the worst film of all time.” On the other hand, his track record as a writer or director is much more consistent. Gone Baby Gone was universally praised, and Good Will Hunting is considered by many to be a new classic. The Town has Affleck pulling triple duty: co-writer, director, and star. It’s perhaps his most ambitious project yet, and it is absolutely brilliant.
The story focuses on a close-knit band of four bank robbers. Each has their own skill, and as a team they are precise, ballsy, and flawless. Affleck plays Doug MacRay, the leader of the group. His plans ensure maximum profit for minimal risk. Jeremy Renner portrays his best friend James—a loose cannon with an itchy trigger finger. Along with two other logistical players the gang manages to knock over dozens of banks and armored cars in and around Boston’s Charlestown area. The film opens with a job gone wrong; an ambitious young female bank manager named Claire pulls the silent alarm, and James opts to take her hostage as a bargaining chip. The gang escapes and lets Claire go, but she is deeply shaken. Doug later follows and befriends her, and the two strike up a relationship. However, Claire has no clue that her new boyfriend is the same man who held her at gunpoint only days before… a man who is now being hunted by the FBI.
The trailers for The Town seem to give away the entire story, but they really don’t. The depth of the narrative is complex, yet manageable; it’s not a spoiler to know beforehand that Claire and Doug become intimate. The real twist here is Doug’s attempt to escape his life of crime. His boss and friends don’t want him to quit, but as the FBI closes in, Doug decides that a normal life is worth a shot. Claire is the driving force behind his reformation, but she is completely unaware that her new boyfriend is also the source of her posttraumatic panic attacks. It’s only a matter of time before she finds out the truth about Doug, but the real question is how she’ll handle the news.
The robberies are intense and realistic; when things go right, nobody gets shot. When things go wrong, all hell breaks loose. The finale is a daring and epic attempt at knocking over one of the biggest cash reserves in Boston, and it’s something that only a genius would think of attempting. Jon Hamm’s portrayal of a tenacious FBI agent walks the line between hero and villain; he may be upholding the law, but he does it in the seediest way possible. He’s just unlikable enough to serve as a law-abiding antagonist.
The Town is one of the best films of the year, plain and simple. Affleck conveys a complex sense of camaraderie and community in Boston’s Charlestown—this sort of character development can only come from someone with firsthand experience of the area. The Town is easily comparable to Scorsese’s The Departed, and in many ways it’s actually better. There isn’t a single weak link in the cast, and every scene delivers pitch-perfect performances from all involved. It should come as no surprise that I absolutely loved this movie.