Review: The Town

Posted September 17th, 2010 at 4:55 pm

The Town, represented by the Boston suburb of Charleston, introduces itself immediately as almost a character in its own right. It is considered to be the world’s capital for armed robberies amongst many other violent crimes. With this knowledge the film leads into following a group of armored car and bank robbers who start to feel the lynch tightening following their latest holdup.

Complicating things is that the group’s leader Doug (Ben Affleck) starts to fall for the bank manager Claire (Rebecca Hall) that they just robbed. This easily could have felt like a contrived plot device but it came across as organic. He initially wanted to fish for what information she may have had regarding the robbery and what she was telling the FBI so it made sense to get close to her. The movie never becomes about this romance, or necessarily even the trauma she experienced, and it avoids using it for cheap tension throughout.

Doug though had that compassionate side from the beginning, something that his main partner James (Jeremy Renner) did not. James is the wild card in the bunch, coming off nine years in prison and having no hesitation to escalate situations if he feels cornered or gets set off. There is a bond between the two that is strong even with the contrasting personalities. Chasing them is an FBI agent (Jon Hamm) who has seemingly exposed the group as the culprits but is struggling to put a case together against them.

If there was one issue I had with the movie it is that the motivation behind the group of guys was never really explained. I get the strong influence that comes with their circumstances growing up, not just geographically but in the way that the trade has been seemingly passed down through their families. It was just all they knew, but I didn’t get a good sense of why they chose to rob the armored cars and banks otherwise. They certainly weren’t enjoying any of their stolen riches. It just seemed to be a job to them and maybe that was meant to be the intended message.

Performance wise everyone pulled their roles off though I didn’t get the sense that any particular actor stood out from the pack. Affleck, Renner, Hamm, and Hall get the most screen time and everyone else feels pretty much to be just in the background. Blake Lively shows up and turns out to play an integral part but she came across as a little distracting. I think it was just such a departure from anything I’ve seen her in, playing a druggie mother with a son and a heavy accent, that it was a bit difficult to accept on the surface.

Ben Affleck does a terrific job directing, coming off his stellar debut with Gone Baby Gone. The script and look to the film are well done in their gritty portrayal of the area and circumstances faced by those living there. Affleck seems to have a really good sense of how to film action, and the robbery scenes and car chases are tense while keeping that grounded realism which seemed to be so important to the project.

The Town is one of the best movies this year. Though it may not have explored quite like Inception or had the unshakable lasting impact of The Social Network it should be considered amongst them in terms of skillful filmmaking and dramatic appeal.

Rating: ★★★★☆