Writer: Ben Affleck, Dennis Lehane (novel)
Cast: Ben Affleck, Elle Fanning, Remo Girone, Brendan Gleeson, Robert Glenister, Matthew Maher, Chris Messina, Sienna Miller, Miguel, Zoe Saldana, Chris Cooper, Titus Welliver, Max Casella, Christian Clemenson, J.D. Evermore, Clark Gregg, Anthony Michael Hall, Chris Sullivan, B.C. Halifax, Derek Mears, Danny Kitz, Bobby Curcuro, Bruce-Robert Serafin, Massi Furian, Lewis D. Wheeler
Production Company: Appian Way, Pearl Street Films, Warner Bros.
Budget: $65,000,000 (estimated)
Set in the prohibition era in the United States of America, Ben Affleck decided to add another well put together crime drama to his filmography. His talent behind and in front of the camera continues to rise, and it doesn’t appear it will slow down anytime soon. Live By Night deserves so much praise for the mixed bag of goodies it delivers. Overall, being a crime/drama, there’s also great action on a small scale that has great impact with the context surrounding it, in addition to love stories and all forms of relationships. You care about the outcome and are onboard with a majority of the characters throughout the entire film. That doesn’t mean there are no shortcomings that could’ve been polished over, but one things for sure is that Affleck knows what he’s doing; and this film is a prime example.
A film with great narration can certainly land it’s mark. And seeing Joe Coughlin (Ben Affleck) with Affleck’s voiceover sure enough set the tone. It presented itself as a puzzle you had to solve, with you being excited for the adventure, though already knowing the outcome. The opening acts were a separate prelude to what came next and set the stage for the remaining duration. Imagine enjoying yourself, not knowing that the real fun hasn’t even begun. Taking place in the 1920’s and 30’s, the timeline was always easy to follow. Having its own contained story, the film still managed to branch out, dipping its toe into real world events, just from a different perspective. As the film progressed so did the characters, leaving old habits behind to adapt to new goals some aspire to with Coughlin knowing when to walk away.
Most likely by design, Coughlin was my favorite character in the film. He knew the world he lived in and how dirty it could get. The man did his homework and was always quick to listen and slow to speak. There was an unspoken code that he lived by and never faltered from unless his life was in danger. If he were an element he would be wind, possessing no form, strong, and going with the flow. He could be a slow, passionate love making machine or a force that will annihilate you if you tried to cross him. He also hated violence, but wasn’t stupid enough to not use it if necessary. If you gave him a bag of crap, he would think long and hard to find a positive outcome from it. He didn’t complain and got the job done.
This film can be thought of as a mansion with one long hallway of goodies. From beginning to end you’re watching characters walk down an illustrious hallway with rooms on your left and right full of greatness. You could peek your head in to witness what it had to offer or continue going down the hallway. This film not only let you peek in, but it let you go into every room and look at every corner. It had fascinating back and side stories that made the hallway even better. Each room was its own little short story and was so engaging you forgot about the main plot until it picked back up again. That just goes to show how well the performances and/or relationships were within the film, containing true passion.
Though all films aren’t perfect and still have their shortcomings. There were only a few here, with the long endings teasing you that it will all be over. I respect the fact that some films don’t always want a fairytale ending, and while this ending was fine, I feel they could’ve went a different route. Ben Affleck’s performance may be cold to some, just playing himself in an interview, but I looked at him differently. He is just a man that’s tired, wants to get out the game, and will at the first chance. What was also great was Affleck’s love letter to end the reign of white supremacy that plagues this country and/or world. It was a little on the nose, but spoke volumes on the history this country was founded on. There aren’t many dramas that I would add to my collection, but this one may be one to join the fold.