Gone Baby Gone

Movie: Directed by Ben Affleck.

Inciting Event: Private detective Patrick and his girlfriend/business partner Angie are asked by the aunt of an abducted little girl to “augment” the police investigation. The story opens with the Hook (and first domino) of the little girl’s abduction. Even though Patrick and Angie know about the abduction from TV, the conflict doesn’t actually enter their world until the moment when they’re asked to take the case.

First Plot Point: There really isn’t a clear First Plot Point here. There are several moments that plunge the characters deeper into the conflict (facing off with police captain Doyle, meeting the little girl’s drug-addict mother Helena, learning the mother lied about her whereabouts on the night of the abduction). But there is no clear turning point around the 25% mark.

From a plot standpoint, the obvious turning point, in which the characters become inextricably involved with the case, is when they agree to take it on. But this happens so quickly on the heels of the Inciting Event that the timing remains problematic.

That said, the weak First Plot Point is the only structural misstep in this story.

First Pinch Point: Patrick and Angie are assigned to work with police detectives Bressant and Poole. Bressant’s interrogation of Helena, leads them to discover her boyfriend shot. She admits she and the boyfriend robbed a cocaine lord and buried the money in the backyard. This leads Patrick to believe the coke lord, Cheese, kidnapped the little girl in order to blackmail the mother into returning the money. He faces down Cheese in his den, but Cheese denies everything.

Midpoint: Doyle and Bressant set up an exchange with Cheese: the money for the girl. But in the dark at the quarry, things go wrong. Cheese is murdered, seemingly by his own man, and the little girl’s doll and sweater are found in the bottom of the quarry.

This is an interesting Midpoint. It completely swings the story around, but what it shows us is not so much a Moment of Truth as it is the biggest Lie of the movie: the girl is dead, the case is closed.

Second Pinch Point: Patrick stumbles upon a pedophile he had become aware of during the previous investigation. He tips off Bressant and Poole, who go in, guns blazing, to rescue a little boy. Poole is mortally wounded and Patrick goes in himself. He discovers the child murdered and shoots the pedophile in the back of the head.

In the aftermath, Bressant insists Patrick did the right thing in murdering a man who harmed a child. He lets slip that he knew Helena’s boyfriend—something he’d denied to Patrick earlier. Patrick begins to piece together strange clues regarding the supposedly closed case of the little girl.

Third Plot Point: Patrick faces down the girl’s uncle in a bar and gets him to admit he helped Bressant abduct her. He claims she accidentally fell into the quarry that night. A masked man breaks into the bar, seemingly to rob it, but when he threatens the uncle, Patrick realizes it’s Bressant. The bartender shoots Bressant in the back. He flees but then dies from his wounds, insisting with his dying breath, “I love children.”

Climax: Patrick puts together the rest of the clues and realizes the girl is still alive. Bressant, Doyle, and the uncle put together a charade to rescue the girl from her neglectful mother and allow her to live with Doyle.

Patrick faces down Doyle, insisting that even though he’s giving the girl a better life, his actions were still wrong.

Note, how even though this final confrontation is one of the quietest in the story, it’s properly placed because it funnels the conflict down to the last remaining and single most important confrontation of the entire story.

Climactic Moment: Patrick chooses to call the state police to arrest Doyle and return the girl to her mother.

Resolution: Angie breaks up with Patrick. He watches as Helena continues to neglect the girl, but he tries to help by babysitting her.

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