The Gangster Film That Deserves More Attention
Live by Night is a gangster film directed by Ben Affleck and based on the novel of the same name by Dennis Lehane. I would call it an emulation of the book, rather than a direct adaptation. The film stars Ben Affleck as Joe Coughlin, a Boston-born robber, World War I veteran, and son of Boston Police Captain Thomas Coughlin, played by Brendan Gleeson.
I never had a chance to watch this movie back in 2016 when it came out, but I finally saw it earlier this year. I was so impressed that I knew I had to write a review about it. I think it’s a classic, and I’m surprised that more people haven’t given it a chance.
Despite the negative reviews, I believe Live by Night is one of Ben Affleck’s best films. As a true fan of gangster films, I can say that the movie is well-made from start to finish. The cinematography, script, and acting are all top-notch, and the movie is well-plotted from the start, with Joe Coughlin’s narration setting the tone for the story.
One of the scenes that stood out for me was the robbery scene. It’s a well-made and exciting introduction to the film. The sound of the vintage car and the streets of Boston in the 1930s set the tone for the rest of the story. The scene introduces the main characters, Joe Coughlin and his girlfriend, Emma Gould (played by Sienna Miller), who is also their inside man. The robbery establishes the conflict that will drive the film.
The film has a lot going on, but it never feels convoluted. The acting is strong, with Affleck giving a charismatic performance as Joe Coughlin. The supporting cast is also excellent, with Chris Messina as Dion Bartolo, Chris Cooper as Chief of Police Figgis, Brendan Gleeson, and Elle Fanning as the Chief Figgis’ daughter, all giving memorable turns. The production values are excellent, with the film beautifully shot and costumed just as in the rest of Ben Affleck’s movies.
I don’t think Live by Night is a slow film as I heard it before. Instead, it takes its time to tell the story, and I think that’s a good thing. Live by Night is a character-driven film, and we need time to get to know the characters and understand their motivations to fully enjoy it. At some point, the film is also full of suspense and violence, so it’s not lacking in excitement.
The film’s message is that “What you put out into the world will always come back to you, but never how you predict”. This is demonstrated by the way people lose their loved ones and the way they die. For example, Chief Figgis’ death and the death of Coughlin’s wife, Graciela Suarez.
I think Live by Night is a well-made film with strong performances and a good story that covers relationships, revenge, father-son, and father-daughter relationships in a web of crimes. I haven’t read the book, but based on the reviews of the book, I think Ben Affleck was summarizing the novel with a film taste. It’s a film that I think will stay with me for a long time. I highly recommend it to fans of gangster films.