In the opening scene of The Town, a highly-disciplined heist crew wearing skeleton masks robs a bank in a job that's almost pitch perfect until someone trips a silent alarm. That act leads to the central drama of the film—the crew takes a hostage, bank employee Claire Keesey (played by Rebecca Hall) to prepare for possible police confrontation. They release her soon after they have made an escape, but Keesey is now a loose end.
One of the bank robbers, James Coughlin (Jeremy Renner), wants to eliminate Keesey. The crew leader, Doug MacRay (played by Ben Affleck, who pulls triple duty as actor, director, and screenwriter), checks Coughlin, agreeing to take care of Keesey himself. While scoping her out post-heist, McRay falls into a perilous romance with Keesey. Meanwhile, a zealous FBI agent (Jon Hamm) targets MacRay and his boys. The plot is on an obvious collision course, but it's unclear how events will unfold; one of the film’s high points is the way in which Affleck the director refrains from clichés —Doug MacRay, is not the go-down-shootin’ type, nor does he seem to take risks for the hell of it.
Doug MacRay is a townie from the working-class neighborhood of Boston called Charlestown whose mother walked out on the family. His father (Chris Cooper) is serving five life sentences for killing two armored car drivers during a heist. MacRay’s only family is Coughlin and Coughlin’s sister Krista (Blake Lively), a drugged-out single mother who wants more from MacRay than their one night stands.
The film culminates in a final heist (the mother of all Boston heists—the weekend take from Fenway Park). MacRay wants out of his criminal lifestyle, and the Fenway job will fulfill his last obligation to his backers before he leaves Charlestown behind and rides off into the sunset. However, the skeleton mask he wears in the opening scene presages the idea that no one can escape his past.
As a director, Affleck demonstrates his skill early. In the opening scene he moves swiftly into action inside the bank, keeping the camera moving at a fast clip. When Keesey fumbles trying to open the vault, MacRay places his hand over hers saying, “Take your time. Breathe.” During the scene, Affleck intersperses clips from the bank’s security cameras, black and white shots from above with no sound that deliberately slow the action while placing viewers at a distance from the violence unfolding on the floor below. He seems to be telling us the same thing; “Take your time. Breathe.”
MacRay might as well be telling himself. Though the action in The Town is well paced and riveting, the film is ultimately about MacRay’s desire to leave. The film is a character drama with a few thrilling heist scenes added for sheer entertainment value. Affleck as director also demands much from his actors. He uses close-ups extensively, challenging his actors to carry the emotional drama of the film. Affleck as actor wears his character like a perfectly tailored suit, and though the relationship between Keesey and MacRay is implausible, Rebecca Hall rises above the narrative as she guides her character through a wide range of emotions.
Though Affleck is all over this film, Jeremy Renner is a scene stealer in his portrayal of loose cannon Coughlin. In one scene, MacRay, with no explanation, asks Coughlin to help him hurt some people. Coughlin, unperturbed, pauses for a few seconds before asking, “Whose car are we taking?” Renner plays the scene to a comic perfection, but the humor is short lived—in the ensuing scene, his character nearly kills someone without knowing why, and Coughlin is unfazed.
By the climax of The Town, we know that not everyone will walk away from Fenway Park alive. The strength of the film rests in this suspenseful denouement, and the final, gorgeous shot is steeped in visual metaphors that reiterate both the film’s grand theme and cement Affleck’s place as a director to be reckoned with.
Starring: Ben Affleck, Rebecca Hall, Jeremy Renner, Jon Hamm, Blake Lively
Director: Ben Affleck
Runtime: 123 minutes
Distributor: Warner Bros. Pictures
Danielle Panabaker's Top Pop Picks
"I'm really into the Avett Brothers as of late."
"My girlfriends are I - we are very nerdy. We started a book club and the first book we read was Gone Girl."
"I thought it was a great film and I thought Jennifer Lawrence was incredible, you know those angry tears, I've certainly experienced that."
Most Popular Videos
- Jane Lynch And Craig Robinson Video Interview On 'Escape From Planet Earth'
- Adrien Brody Video Interview On Judging The Bombay Sapphire Imagination Film Series, Playing Houdini
- George Lopez Video Interview On 'Escape From Planet Earth'
- Thandie Newton Video Interview On 'Rogue,' Learning To Shoot A Gun
- Kevin Smith Video Interview On His New Book, 'Tough Sh*t,' Mitt Romeny, Bruce Willis
Top Comedy Videos
Sex & Sci-Fi: Summer's Hottest Movies & Men - Your Tango
- Celebrity Sex Talk: 6 Craziest Things Heard This Week - Your Tango
- Why ‘Man of Steel’ Didn’t Use ‘Superman’ in the Title - MovieFone
- 10 Hot Hollywood Husbands Changing The World - Your Tango
- Taylor Swift Cozying Up With Harry Styles - PlanetFashionTV