A thrilling action film with one of the most believable love stories of the year.
As director and star, Ben Affleck takes a genre as old as cinema itself, and crafts an intensely watchable and compelling thriller.
While he's as dependable as always in front of the camera - convincing as the blue collar orchestrator of a plague of bank robberies in Boston who falls for one of his victims - Affleck's mastering of action is a delight. There's the most visceral car chase since The Bourne Supremacy, revealing Affleck's intimacy with his beloved home town.
The Town in question is Charlestown, home to 300 robberies a year, and where dodging the FBI is an innate skill for its residents. Our gang, lead by Affleck's Doug, is a rough-and-ready wife-beater-wearing bunch, with a volatile and weaselly Jeremy Renner playing his longest and closest friend. There's a nobility to this crew; proud of their zero death rate, they plunder their way through banks with inventive aplomb in the manner of Point Break's similarly decked-out robbers.
The divine Rebecca Hall is sensitive bank manager Claire, held captive as a potential bargaining tool before being released. With the gang feeling twitchier than normal after this raid, they keep tabs on the shook-up woman. Doug's meeting and subsequent relationship with Claire is remarkably well-handled, with their excellent chemistry helping matters along. The pacing of this part of the film is timed to perfection by Affleck, with their dates a joy to observe. The irony of the perpetrator helping the victim to heal is sensitively handled, and never feels as fantastical as it could. Of course, in a town where everyone knows each other's business, there follows some deliciously dangerous scenarios, where Claire becomes scarily close to finding out the truth.
If Affleck's criminal with a heart of gold is just too pleasant, there's a fantastic cameo from Pete Postlethwaite as the town's chilling overlord to instill a genuine sense of fear. Mad Men star Jon Hamm is a scene-stealing FBI agent, who is so close, yet so far from nailing the arrogant robbers. He and Titus Welliver's law enforcers are never played facetiously, as would be so easy to do when you're rooting for the bad guys.
After building tension so magnificently, The Town's final third feels slightly anticlimactic. Claire's revelatory moment is a let down, and the obligatory "one last job" takes the viewer down very familiar paths. However, it's not enough to detract from a thrilling action film with one of the most believable love stories of the year. Stylish and gripping, it's another victory for Affleck following his debut with Gone Baby Gone.