Director: Ben Affleck
Writers: Ben Affleck, Dennis Leahane (Author of Live by Night)
Cast: Ben Affleck (Joe Coughlin), Elle Fanning (Loretta Figgis), Remo Girone (Maso Pescatore), Zoe Zaldana (Graciela), Robert Glenister (Albert White), Sienna Miller (Emma Gould)
Running Time: 128 minutes
When the first trailer for Ben Affleck’s Live by Night came out, I was intrigued. It looked like Affleck was going to try something new and fresh with the gangster genre. He chose to set it in an interesting backdrop compared to previous gangster movies. Some of the shots that he used of the setting were put in the trailer and they definitely helped the film look more interesting. However, overstuffed screenplays can bog down even the most talented directors. Live by Night was bursting full of potential, but most of it was wasted.
The cast of Live by Night was superb, but Affleck is the one who deserves the most attention. Affleck played Joe Coughlin and was believable in his role doing so. I liked a lot of the dialogue that was put in for his character. Although the same cannot be said about the other characters. Joe Coughlin and Graciela seemed like the only two people that got enough screen time to fully develop on screen. I will go deeper into the character development subject later, because it was a huge problem.
The cinematography in the film was fantastic. There were so many beautiful and thoughtful shots of the scenery put in the movie. The car and boat shots were the highlight of Live by Night, in my opinion. The landscape used for the different shots worked extremely well. Affleck chose a vivid and lush backdrop for Live by Night and I loved that aspect of the film. It is too bad that the whole film did not consist of beautiful scenery shots.
One of the worst aspects of Live by Night was the packed screenplay. I do not think that Affleck should have both written and directed the film. Affleck may have put too much on his plate, it would have helped to have hired a different writer. I did not care for many of the characters because they were developed very poorly. Coughlin’s problems with Alfred White seemed forced to advance the plot and I did not care for that at all. The most important parts of Live by Night came and went without much meaning and background to them. There were a few story arcs that just should not have been used. Affleck tried to fit way too many things into Live by Night and it suffered because of that.
The gunfights and car chases were amazing, but too infrequent. I would have expected Live by Night to have more action scenes. I was annoyed that action was limited, because the scenes that had it were thrilling. The shooting scene at the end of the film made me want more because they were done really well. Not having more action to go along with the story parts made the film feel way longer than it actually was. At one point though, Affleck went totally overboard with the violence. There was a scene where Alfred White kicked Coughlin in the privates, then Coughlin vomited. That was not needed at all in my opinion. I did not want to see that happen.
Sometimes bigger is not always better. Live by Night is the case and point of that notion. I believe that Affleck should have made the film less packed with material, if he had done that, then maybe the story would have flowed better. While Affleck’s visual style was amazing, that cannot save a movie.
I give Live by Night a…..
2.0 out of 4