‘The Town’ – A taut, tense thriller
By Satyen K. Bordoloi
Ben Affleck hit the Hollywood jackpot walking out with a best screenplay Oscar right in his first cinematic outing. Many detractors have since been busy proving that it was nothing but a beginner’s luck. With “The Town”, Affleck – both the actor and the director – lays all doubts to rest and proves, perhaps once and for all, that he is a Hollywood tour-de-force to reckon with.
“The Town” is set in the neighbourhood of Charlestown, a one square mile Irish-Catholic ghetto in Boston, which till the 1990’s was responsible for a series of bank and armoured car robberies. Doug (Ben Affleck) is a second generation bank robber, who with his three friends, rob a bank and take a woman manager, Claire (Rebecca Hall), hostage.
After finding out that she stays in the same neighbourhood as them and afraid that she might spill the beans, Doug trails her and falls in love with her. When he wants out from a life of crime, his hazy childhood is devastatingly cleared up as he realizes that there is perhaps no way out from a crime infested past.
The slick, fast and modern depiction of a bank robbery in the opening scene, where the smart robbers burn hard disks, and any DNA traces, sets up the pace for the film. And to Affleck’s credit, he gets almost everything perfect – the pace, the camerawork, the slick editing and most of all the cast. Each man, and woman, in the film plays his part to the hilt.
Yet, it is Jeremy Renner, who plays an angry James, Doug’s best friend and partner in crime, who steals the show. He brings out the rage and spontaneity of his character with aplomb. In front of his brilliance, Affleck, despite showing one of his most commendable acting performances ever, seems like a supporting cast.
“The Town”, based on Chuck Hogan’s novel “Prince of Thieves”, is a tight and confidently directed thriller which rises above the din of other heist-flicks in the nuances it brings out from its flawed characters, and their imperfect lives. It subtly articulates the undercurrents of a crime-town, and its minute workings with the flourish of an impressionist painter.
The only two sore points of the film are the seemingly unlikely romance and the ending where Doug manages to get away with considerable ease, despite tight security.
It has to be remembered that Affleck’s first outing as director in “Gone Baby Gone” was again set in a similarly close knit community of drugs and crime in Boston. There too he had managed to get the nuances of the story, as well as of the surroundings, with panache.
“The Town”, as well as Affleck’s previous directorial outing, makes one wonder whether it was indeed direction that was his true calling. And the world of cinema would stand to gain a lot if he moves with greater focus in that direction.
Director: Ben Affleck
Cast: Ben Affleck, Rebecca Hall, Jeremy Renner, Jon Hamm