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Commentary, Lead Commentary

Ben Affleck Breaks Away

Do you feel it too? That wave of relief whenever Ben Affleck is involved in a tasteful, legitimate project? I felt it this week after seeing a documentary about his latest directorial effort, “The Town.” This crime thriller looks electrifying and in the doc about it, Affleck exhibits the polish and knowledge of a master filmmaker and thespian. He has come a long way to get to this point, so let’s track his progress.

Now I don’t want to appear patronizing here. I don’t mean to say that Affleck is just now proving his worth. He has always been an effective actor and filmmaker. His talent has simply been hidden sometimes under the refuse of Hollywood. For every “Good Will Hunting,” there was an “Armageddon.” Affleck has often been reduced to vapid action and romantic hero roles on account of his rugged good looks. He was forced to do silly things like save the planet from asteroids, romance a quirky Sandra Bullock, and star in a Christmas crime thriller called “Reindeer Games.”

Like George Reeves, Affleck was a high-brow actor trapped in a low-brow actor’s body. Perhaps that is why his role as Reeves, the star of the ‘50s “Superman” TV show, is his most indelible performance. It’s a piercing, self-reflective portrayal. Affleck conveys the weight of Reeves’ typecast career and in turn, his own. The power of the film, “Hollywoodland” came from watching Affleck ascend to new dramatic heights as an actor as the character of Reeves descended.

Affleck built up his reputation even further by getting behind the camera. His 2007 crime thriller, “Gone Baby Gone” is one of the most assured directorial debuts I’ve ever seen. It is positively Scorsesean in its striking sense of place, its uncompromising yet sympathetic depiction of the mean streets of Boston.

Affleck’s new film, “The Town” returns to his old stomping grounds of Boston. His character hopes to leave his crime-ridden life in Charlestown in his rearview mirror. With this film, Affleck appears to be leaving his life as a Hollywood pretty boy in his rearview mirror as well.

Back in his hometown with a rebuilt career, Affleck can breathe a sigh of relief, the same relief that is now washing over critics and filmgoers.

I’ll leave you with this self-referential line from “The Town,” uttered by Affleck. “People always say they’re going to change their lives and they never do. I’m going to change mine.” He has done exactly that. Bravo, Ben.

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17 Responses to “Ben Affleck Breaks Away”

  1. Debi Hamm says:

    i HAVE NOT SEEN THE TOWN BUT HAVE BEEN YOLD VERY GOOD MOVIE

  2. latorya says:

    The Town was one of the best movies I have seen this year. I went to the movies with no expectation of watching a great movie from Ben since his Benifer days. One movie is a little too soon to say come back, but I’m looking forward to watching more of his movies again.

  3. brandon says:

    i’ve never been a huge fan of ben, but i agree lately he’s been much better. as you said, his earlier roles had his trying to be more badass/sauve guy then i think he could pull off (and just made him come off as a tool).

  4. Stephanie Winslow says:

    I have to agree with article. Ben Affleck is a success as both actor and director. Although I have not see "The Town" yet, I look forward to seeing what Ben brings to the screen this go around. Along with some others, I agree that his earlier films were good, yet some of his best roles have been "hidden". Jersey Girl, Reindeer games and many more. I personally would love to see him and Matt Damon make some more blockbusters like Good Will Hunting.

  5. Nathan Lindsay says:

    I loved his latest movie "The Town" but I was definitely concerned it was going to be another "Gigli".

  6. Nick Rogers says:

    Austin: I’ll leave that opinion to you and your hetero life-mate. And yes, that is a hilarious "SNL" skit.

  7. Austin Lugar says:

    Nick, Ben Affleck was the bomb in Phantoms, yo.

    Also in further Affleck praising he was the star of one of the best SNL sketches in the past few years: http://www.nbc.com/saturday-night-live/video/countdown-with-keith-olbermann/805561/

  8. Nick Rogers says:

    Sam: "Changing Lanes" was an easy pick for my best-of list, and, yes, an underrated performance from Affleck as a guy with severe ethical flaws who’s nevertheless worth rooting for.

    He’s cashed a lot of checks since "Good Will Hunting," but there’s crap far, far more odorous than "Armageddon" or "Daredevil" – "Phantoms," "Reindeer Games," "Pearl Harbor," "Gigli," "Paycheck," "He’s Just Not That Into You."

    "Surviving Christmas" is a guilty pleasure in the cynical-Christmas pantheon. There’s a great scene in it when Affleck’s character hires an actor to play the role of his dead grandfather (whom he called Doo-dah). He instructs the actor to eat one of Doo-dah’s favorite dishes, but the actor begs off, citing food allergies. Affleck’s pricelessly self-centered response: "I’m afraid that dog won’t hunt."

  9. Sam Watermeier says:

    I liked that early stuff too (I guess I’m a snob now). A lot of his good work has unfortunately been buried underneath the crap he’s done though. "Changing Lanes" is an underseen movie of his and one of his best performances. It was unfortunately sandwiched between "Armageddon" and "Daredevil."

  10. Austin Lugar says:

    If we’re going to talk about different phases in Ben Affleck’s career, I really liked his early stuff. (Liking anyone’s early stuff is always a wonderfully snobbish phrase.) He’s very dynamic and fun in movies like Chasing Amy and Dazed and Confused. They weren’t fantastic performances but they were more entertaining than his A-list Hollywood stuff like Daredevil.

    I think he’s a great director. He knows how to make fun personal crime thrillers. I think Gone Baby Gone was richer material and was more interesting visually than The Town, but I’m still excited to see what he tackles next.

  11. Victoria Dodge says:

    I had no desire to see this film based on the initial previews. Then my husband encouraged me to take a deeper look. Based on your comments and the fact that I’ve always been an Affleck fan, I am now looking forward to seeing him in a new "persona". Sounds like other’s low expectations were dramatically changed based on the film as well!

  12. Julie Wakley says:

    I saw The Town on September 13 and the movie was so much better than I thought it would be, by far! The cast was superb, the storyline was believable, and I was impressed that Ben Affleck both directed and co-wrote the movie. I would go see it again!

  13. Victor Wakley says:

    This has got to be, hands down, my favorite movie this year! The shootouts were unbelievable, and the story itself was very believable. I lived out East 20 years ago and have been in the areas shown in the movie. Best Ben Affleck movie I have ever seen. Two thumbs up!

  14. Julie Wakley says:

    I saw The Town on September 13 and I have to say it was far better than I thought it would be. The cast was superb, the storyline was believable and I thought Ben Affleck only directed the movie, but it turns out he co-wrote the screenplay as well? Bravo! I would recommend this movie to everyone!

  15. Victor Wakley says:

    This has got to be, hands down, my favorite movie this year! The shootouts were unbelievable, and the story itself was very believable. I lived out East 20 years ago and have been in the areas shown in the movie. Best Ben Affleck movie I have ever seen. Two thumbs up!

  16. Julie Wakley says:

    I saw The Town on September 13 and I have to say the movie was far better than I had given it credit for. The cast was superb, the story left you on the edge of your seat, and I was very impressed with the fact that Ben Affleck directed and co-wrote the screenplay. He has definitely come a long way in developing his talents. Bravo!

  17. I was one of the lucky people that got to see The Town preview and was blown away by Ben Afflec and his part in this movie. He, indeed, has come into his own. There have been so many stories about Ben, his life, his romances, and his failed movies. I am glad to see him finally break that shell and show people what his true talents are!
    Bravo to Ben for both his acting and his ability to go behind the camera as well. Very good movie, recommend it to everyone over 18.