THE TOWN :: Oscar Ritual 2011
In most any other year, Ben Affleck would be celebrating Academy Award nominations for directing and acting in The Town. That only Jeremy Renner was singled out from the film is evidence of how many good movies were released in 2010. I’m disappointed that Affleck’s film didn’t receive more attention from the Academy because it’s truly his best work yet, both as an actor and as a director, and the film had more layers than many other movies of higher acclaim. For my money, it was Affleck’s performance as Doug McRay that held the entire film together from beginning to end.
The Town begins with a bank robbery, and this series of scenes at the start of the film sets a unique tone for what’s to come. In the midst of chaos and terror, Affleck is a soothing voice (literally), and that quiet strength becomes a thread throughout the rest of the story. There is no resemblance to the Affleck of old, and it’s often too easy to overlook him in the midst of what is essentially a crime story. Playing his oldest and closest friend, Jem, Renner is also his polar opposite: an explosive character who acts on impulse and rarely considers the consequences. Where Doug and Jem clash the most is ultimately the crux of the film: a key witness to the bank robbery becomes Doug’s lover and causes him to question the course of his life. The juxtaposition of Doug’s criminal history with his newfound relationship is a mirror to the themes of the movie itself: resolving his past with the desire for a better future, all the while trying to hold onto all the relationships that fill his life. The Town speaks to this struggle beautifully and becomes far more than a simple story of one Boston community with a rich history of criminal endeavors.
Every person cast in The Town brings an extraordinary richness to the film, but Jon Hamm‘s FBI agent in charge of taking down Doug’s crew is surely the most memorable. His role isn’t as large as I believed it to be, but he shines in every scene, and when he and Affleck sit nose to nose there is a palpable current of intensity. In another film I might have rooted for Hamm’s character, but in The Town I never wanted him to catch up to the criminals. For me, this movie was simply all about Ben Affleck. And it was so much more than I ever expected it could be.
image from Rotten Tomatoes, linked to source