The Boston neighborhood of Charlestown, a series of pre-title cards inform us, is a fundamentally miserable but also beloved place, a rough-and-tumble environment where bank robbery has become a cottage industry. The Town is the story of bank robbers, and of the dilemma experienced by the people — Townies, they’re called, affectionately and not-so — who dwell in a place they love, and from which they’re desperate to escape.
Unexpectedly, Gone Baby Gone boasts one of the year’s scariest scenes. It comes partway into the film’s third act and involves a guy with a shotgun and unclear intentions. It works as well as it does for the usual reasons: story, performance, camerawork. It’s so thoroughly gripping that I didn’t realize until it was over that all my critical faculties had been put temporarily and decisively on hold. It’s one of those rare moments when I’m not engaging with the narrative intellectually, as a piece of art, but emotionally, as experience. That seems to happen less and less often these days, but when it does, it’s bliss.