Live By Night [2016] ★★★

 lbnben-2It’s no surprise that a movie set during the roaring 20’s would win me over almost instantly. I’m a sucker for old gangster films of the 30’s and 40’s in which Humphrey Bogart, Edward G. Robinson and the great James Cagney headlined most of them. In paying tribute to this era, Ben Affleck has managed to deliver an ambitious film, fueled by an impressive cinematography and great attention to detail that makes the overall result look and feel like a 1930’s film. Does the movie trip on its own ambition sometimes? You bet. But it still gets a lot of things right, and that’s enough for me to recommend it. The book was written by Dennis Lehane and Ben Affleck produced, wrote, directed and starred in the big screen adaption (does he ever sleep?). He plays Joe Coughlin, the son of a police captain (Brendon Gleeson) during the prohibition era. Joe is also an outlaw who’s about to turn to organized crime when he loses the love of his life (Sienna Miller). The plot gets thicker and thicker as we move along and threatens to go off the rails several times. Lucky for us, Affleck and his group of talented actors that includes Chris Cooper, Zoe Saldana and the young Elle Fanning manages to keep it afloat. But perhaps best of all is Affleck’s ability to take us to another time and place and give us enough reasons to care for all these characters. Translating an already dense book to the big screen was never going to be an easy task, but I think Affleck has succeeded in pulling it off, even if it falls short at times. “Live By Night” is  a gangster noir in every aspect and a solid addition to Affleck’s career as a director.

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