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Live by Night Movie Review: Ben Affleck Is Having an Identity Crisis, Both Behind and In Front of the Screen

Live By Night
Warner Bros. Pictures


Live by Night Movie Review: Ben Affleck Is Having an Identity Crisis, Both Behind and In Front of the Screen

This review contains no spoilers


Following Batman into his dark slumber, Ben Affleck (Argo, Gone Girl) is once more a (anti) hero but lives in a more haunted past. But unlike the ultra wealthy Bruce wayne, Affleck now plays a sort of Robin Hood who steals money from the bank but without any intention to harm the police chasing after him. Should he kill, it’s the plot pushing Affleck’s Joe Coughlin to an unfortunate condition, especially after he works for mafioso boss, Maso Pescatore (Remo Girone). Should he kill, it’s simply an act of defense against any threat towards what and whom he cares about. His only sin is to get his moral knocked out once he’s subdued by such threat, making his character look more convoluted than the plot.

There are reasons to watch The Godfather-like Live by Night but not enough suspense to keep us interested watching, especially after the love triangle involving Joe, Emma Gould (Sienna Miller), and Albert White (Robert Glenister) is subsided. The suspense turns bland as the period crime drama diverts its focus of the rest third-quarter to a convoluted mobster mission. Whatever happens after Joe joins the mafia chain, Live by Night goes derailed, hinting at an opinion that Afflect might have got a problem constructing the plot. Moreover, once Joe steps up as a rum business runner and later a potential casino royal, his dilemmatic backstory is quickly dismissed.

3 years of living in imprisonment, Joe decides to take a leap of life, offering himself to Maso which we learn it’s also part of his personal avenging mission. And as soon as he arrives at the city of populated immigrants, Ybor City, he falls in love with a Cuban rum dealer’s relative, Graziella Corrales (Zoe Saldana), overcoming his lost for Emma and the disturbing nightmare of his World War I experience. Apparently, Gabriella’s brother, Esteban Suarez (Miguel) is the important key to succeed Joe’s mission as well as bring up the underlying benefit to the relationship of two. Unfortunately, other characters exploit Joe’s mission like wild cats being let out of bag. Taking in as a writer, producer, and director altogether, it’s Affleck’s fault to let RD Pruitt (Matthew Maher), a local racist who secretively detests Joe’s business growth, spread a terror of an unreasonable sentiment. A similar fault happens to Loretta Figgis (Elle Fanning) who plays a sick mind and gives a naive preach with a potential discrepancy between sin and redemption.

Live By Night

But Live by Night still keeps a light to cheer on as Affleck did a good job with the styling and fast-paced sequences, an aspect duet which we think sweep clean most of the praises. Affleck owes much to the names handling the cinematography (Robert Richardson (Hugo, The Hateful Eight)), classy costumes (Jacqueline Wilson (Argo, The Revenant)), and lavish town setting (Nancy Haigh (Forrest Gump, True Grit, Cafe Society)) turning Live by Night into an artistic visual spectacle despite the crippled plot and little depth of character development.

The plot isn’t tailored as solid as Affleck’s previous directorial works, hinting at another opinion that Affleck’s being aimless with the objective of this ambitious piece of work. The characters are necessary but almost none show an essential role for a conflict urgency, especially a climax. Joe himself is all a protagonist but with minimum good deed since he hardly lives upright. A son of a police deputy (Brendan Gleeson), Joe is ironically a wanted criminal who steals for material pleasure. Whether it’s the period crime theme in which Affleck longed to work on or he got disillusioned with the heroic role we all know he’s been playing, Live by Night is not maximumly fueled. The motive isn’t enough to drive the plot into a searchlight but moves it abruptly into layers of hesitation. Affleck himself, as we predicted earlier, appears in his usual impassive notion and makes his Joe no difference with Batman during those dark grueling days.

Director: Ben Affleck

Cast: Ben Affleck, Sienna Miller, Brendan Gleeson, Zoe Saldana, Chris Messina, Elle Fanning, Remo Girone

Duration: 129 mins


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