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The Town

Ben Affleck, Jeremy Renner, Rebecca Hall, Jon Hamm | R |

DRAMA

Like Woody Allen and his New York state of mind, Ben Affleck is developing quite a facility for telling Boston’s stories. This one is about Charlestown, a neighborhood responsible for more bank robbers than any other. Affleck directs, cowrites and stars as Doug, the flinty point man on a bank-busting crew, who takes things personally when hotheaded best friend Jim (Renner) grabs a hostage on a job. In fact, things get very personal when Doug starts romancing Claire (Hall), the unsuspecting former hostage, putting everyone at risk, particularly with a dogged Fed (Hamm) on the case. While Affleck is great as Doug, chiseled and deeply well versed in the law, he’s an even better director. He draws award-worthy performances out of the actors, particularly Renner and Gossip Girl’s Blake Lively as Jim’s junkie sister. Though The Town is far from perfect, it’s a gritty and engaging effort from a guy who looks to have a long career-on both sides of the camera.

Never Let Me Go

Carey Mulligan, Andrew Garfield, Keira Knightley | R |

SCI FI

Never Let Me Go is a sci-fi movie with no visionary machines, no flashy aliens and, strangely, no surprises. It’s so much crueler, you see, to know precisely what’s coming at you. That’s the fate of Kathy (Mulligan), Tommy (Garfield), and Ruth (Knightley), clones raised in a boarding school to become spare parts for luckier humans. When Ruth and Tommy start dating we know it’s really Kathy he loves, and every second they spend apart before they complete their “donations” feels like theft of the worst sort. Beautifully acted, Never Let Me Go is, like most ruminations on death, a celebration of life-however devalued, however brief.