Waking up to a new dawn

Live by Night
English (A)Cast: Ben Affleck, Elle
Flanning, Zoe Saldana
Director: Ben Affleck

After his 2012 directorial venture ‘Argo’, Ben Affleck turns to the “roaring 20s” for his latest project. ‘Live by night’ is a historical crime drama that portrays the crime scene during late 20s and 30s, just as America was passing through the Great Depression and Franklin Roosevelt takes office. In these dire times, America saw its economy fall and crime rate rise. Affleck sets a tale of love, loss, bloodshed and morality in these times.

The film tells the story of Joe Coughlin (Ben Affleck), a World War I veteran, who is helplessly drawn into the world of gangsters and lobbying. In a voice-over that introduces the film, Joe gives us his reasons for turning to crime, where he started out merely as a man involved in armed robberies. The war had convinced him of two things: that too many good men had fallen and that following orders is absurd.

In a delicious mismatch, Joe decides he will commit crimes but never kill. However, things very soon go out of hand. After a violent episode, he learns that the woman he loves is killed. In order to take revenge against her killer, Joe begins the life that he wanted to avoid at any cost — of a gangster, where murder was almost an everyday affair. The rest of the movie tells the story of how Joe struggles to be a good man in a world where success depends on how cruel a person can be.

While Joe’s troubles include lobbying and dealing with offences from other gangster camps, there is also an older world order that he has to deal with. He lives amid people who believe that African-Americans should be shunned, the Ku Klux Klan have a free rein, and one must be aware of a man’s racial background before one shakes hands with him. However, ‘Live by night’ captures America even as this world is receding. It spits sharply at Joe’s modern world-view — his wife is a “nigger” — before it fades; the rise of Joe Coughlin is modern America taking its baby-steps.

Apart from excellent camera work by Robert Richardson, a thing to look forward to are conversations of Joe and Loretta (Elle Flanning), who falls prey to substance abuse, but is rehabilitated and becomes a preacher of godly virtues.

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