5. The Killer Inside Me (2010)
Lou Ford is a small-town deputy sheriff who’s lived there all his life. He’s loved and well regarded until he meets the new girl in town, who’s also a prostitute. When he goes over to tell her to leave town, she awakens something he thought was gone but was actually buried deep inside. Hence the title of the film.
If you can get over Affleck’s boyish good looks, which don’t compliment his character well, then you’ll find a mesmerizing performance. The film certainly has its issues, but it’s Affleck’s performance that keeps you watching. You never know exactly what he’s going to do.
He goes from well-mannered and empathic to crazily sociopathic and cold as the story unfolds, never putting you at ease, with a look in his eyes that tells you more than they should while telling nothing at all. His performance is eerie and hypnotic. It’s a violent film that not everyone will appreciate, with questionable performances from Jessica Alba and Kate Hudson.
The good outweighs the bad and that’s mostly because of Affleck’s dark and mysterious performance. Perfectly summed up in the beginning when Lou says “the thing about small towns is everyone thinks they know you who you are.”
4. Ain’t Them Bodies Saints (2013)
Affleck stars here as Bob Muldoon in David Lowery’s romantic crime drama. After his squeeze (Rooney Mara) shoots a cop, Bob takes the blame so she can have a chance at raising their soon-to-be-born child. As Bob serves out his sentence, the couple grows distant. Heartbroken, Bob escapes from prison to find his family as the vultures circle around the couple.
We’ve seen Affleck play similar characters before in “The Assassination of Jesse James” and “The Killer Inside Me”; that quiet character who seems to have something deeper and darker inside. That quiet character that looks like he has the whole world on his shoulders. The difference here is that Bob is a romantic. Essentially, he’s a family man who’s never gotten the chance to be with his family.
The performances are great across the board, with the film having a relaxed, quiet pace that the actors embody. Affleck is a master at giving subtle performances and it’s obvious here as well. He portrays the scenes of heartbreak and longing quite well, even though Lowery’s direction keeps us at arm’s length.
Sadly, the film and performances were overshadowed by Lowery’s polarizing script, the direction, and the Terrence Malick influence/rip-off. But “Ain’t Them Bodies Saints” is still a great picture that deserves to be seen.
3. Gone Baby Gone (2007)
With big brother Ben behind the director’s chair, Affleck plays private investigator Patrick Kenzie in this neo-noir mystery drama. When a little girl goes missing in the Boston neighborhood of Dorchester, Patrick and his partner/girlfriend Angie are asked to investigate. In a town known for its crime and corrupt cops, Patrick and Angie’s search will forever change their lives and everyone involved.
The year 2007 was truly an amazing year for Affleck, who starred in two amazing films and became a household name. Stepping out of his brother’s shadow in a film that was ironically directed by him, the two Afflecks shine as a duo of note. In a dream cast with the underrated Michelle Monaghan, Morgan Freeman and Ed Harris, the younger Affleck totally owns the film.
Throughout the film, Patrick is the moral center where everyone has their own ideas on what’s right. Affleck’s performance is understated with intelligence and confidence. Restrained as he is, he knows when to bring out his wrath. It’s no clearer than in the famous scene in the house of the two creepy junkies.
He has a conflict with Angie on making the right decision by the end of the story, and his expression in the closing moments when he realizes that he might’ve made the wrong decision just adds to his performance and film. Ben and Casey should definitely make more films like this together.
2. The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (2007)
Based on a novel that in turn is based on a true story, Affleck plays the backstabbing coward Robert “Bob” Ford, an awkward, star-struck weasel who gets the chance to meet his idol, only to turn around and kill him once his illusion of the man turns sour.
Andrew Dominik’s excellent film is filled with excellent characters and performances, but it’s more or less Robert’s story which makes it more or less Affleck’s film. His performance stands head and shoulders beside Brad Pitt’s portrayal of Jesse James. When Jesse meditates, “I can’t figure it out, do you want to be like me or do you want to be like me?”, the viewer has exactly the same question.
Affleck’s performance succeeds in giving Robert a progressive arc. From the eager, awkward, boy-like fan who just wants to be like Jesse and be around him, to the more confident, bitter man who attempts to do what many men were afraid to do. From his mannerisms, perfect accent and annunciations, to his abrupt bursts of anger and general awkwardness, you understand why most of the characters don’t trust him for a second.
By the last part of the film, Affleck has the audience connecting and feeling for Robert as he floats by in a life full of ridicule and regret. He rightfully earned his Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination for not only one of his best performances, but one of the best performances this side of the 21st century.
1. Manchester by the Sea (2016)
Lee Chandler lives a quiet life as an apartment complex handyman whose older brother Joe passed away. He’s lived alone since his divorce and reluctantly takes care of his nephew Patrick as asked by Joe in his will. As Lee tries to take care of Patrick, he comes to terms with his tragic past while developing a bond with his nephew.
Writer/director Kenneth Lonergan’s film is filled with beauty, from the script, locations, and performances. Affleck carries the whole film with his performance, which is a masterclass of subtlety and depth – a performance which rightly earned him numerous Best Actor awards.
We’ve seen this kind of story a million times before, but not with this kind of heart and grace. There are many memorable scenes which show an actor at the top of his game. The heartbreaking scenes can be hard to watch and the more comedic scenes wouldn’t work as well without Affleck’s selfless commitment.
“Manchester by the Sea” goes the extra mile in a way we’ve never seen before. Affleck’s total emersion is backed by a cast and crew at their best. It just might be the performance for which he’s remembered, and we can surely expect more great things from the younger Affleck as his career continues to grow.
Author Bio: Allan Khumalo is a lover of all things cinema. That is all.