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film review: The Town

film review: The Town

This is, quite simply, the best movie I’ve seen all year. The Town has everything one could ask for: a solid story, a superb cast playing interesting and well-drawn characters, pulse-pounding action, and the element of surprise. It’s violent, visceral, and completely captivating.

I admired Ben Affleck’s debut feature as director, Gone Baby Gone, but this surpasses it; what’s more, he gives a fine performance in the movie’s leading role, as a bold bank robber who finds that loyalty—to his lifelong friends, to his very way of life—has a price. He’s returned to familiar turf, as the film is set mostly in Charlestown, a Boston suburb widely known for its criminal element, and again, Affleck captures—

—the look and feel of the place with great skill.

You might think that there aren’t any new ways to depict bank robberies, city-bound car chases, or cops-and-robbers shootouts, but Affleck, his talented cinematographer Robert Elswit, and film editor Dylan Tichenor prove otherwise. Each set-piece is extraordinarily gripping.

But heart-stopping chase scenes wouldn’t sustain the film if we weren’t drawn in by the characters. There are no “stock types” here: Jon Hamm’s FBI agent plays just as tough as the criminals he’s stalking. Rebecca Hall’s bank teller is intelligent but vulnerable. Jeremy Renner, Affleck’s lifelong pal and partner in crime (literally), isn’t just a loose cannon: he’s an ex-con who figures he has nothing to lose.

There’s even an homage to The Friends of Eddie Coyle, which in many ways—not the least, its understatement—remains the definitive Boston crime movie. This film ups the ante in terms of energy and excitement, but it takes its place alongside Coyle, The Departed, Mystic River, and Affleck’s own Gone Baby Gone as one of the best films ever made about the city and its zeitgeist. I hope it’s the smash hit it deserves to be.

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