The Town is a one last job movie where our primary protagonist is set on doing this one last job and getting out clean, leaving town and building a new life. The thing about it is that it doesn't start out that way. The film, adapted from a Chuck Hogan novel (Prince of Thieves), does a good job of creating its plot from essentially nothing and then letting it be a side note to the flow of the characters.
As I sit back and read that last bit, it does sound a little strange, no? As the movie begins we are introduced to Doug (Ben Affleck), Jem (Jeremy Renner), and the rest of the team in the midst of a daring bank robbery. It is something they have done before and have gotten quite good at. This is their life, and they like it. It is all they know and likely all they will ever know. This time turns out a little differently as they get interrupted and are forced to take a hostage. This hostage turns out to be Claire (Rebecca Hall), the bank manager. This is the film's way of allowing the characters lives to dictate the path they head down.
Following the robbery, Jem is crazy about getting fingered. Doug follows Claire to a laundromat and the two actually like each other and begin a relationship. This new love opens Doug's eyes to the world. Claire, being an outsider (not from Charlestown), shows Doug that not everything is the way he has been brought up to know. He sees renewed life in this revelation. He has found someone who genuinely cares.
The problem, of course, is when he has to do that one last job and she discovers the truth about what he does and why they met in the first place. This brings everything crashing down as the FBI, led by Jon Hamm, close in for a climactic shootout involving a ton of money, Fenway Park, and a boatload of cops.
We get some interesting things when Doug and Claire are in view and how the relationship affects everyone else around him. Everything changes as the scales fall from Doug's eyes. The problem is that there is an insistence on getting back to the crime planning/execution/fall out of their story. I suspect this is a studio wanting to ensure there was enough action to satiate a wide audience. Not necessarily a bad thing, just the quality of focus makes what could have been a very strong film merely solid.
Not for nothing, I was in for the ride from start to finish. Ben Affleck has proven to be quite an accomplished director. For as many mediocre to poor performances he has had, there is no denying he was paying attention to what was going on. In turn he has made a strong transition to the director's chair. He has a good eye for the frame making the whole thing breathe with life. His sense for pacing is also quite strong. Overall, this is an eminently watchable film that will make you care for a criminal and hope for a better future.