Everyone once in awhile there comes a gangster film that surprises audiences because of the content it presents to us. Live By Night is one of those classic gangster films that is able to reflect our society and still pay homage to the noir crime classics of the 30s. Ben Affleck’s directorial vision is beautifully captured in this film and he does a great job pulling tropes and stylistic elements from various films within both genres. What I loved about Live By Night was how he integrated the gangster and crime noir elements to create a fresh neo-noir picture that Warner Brothers could get behind, considering they used to be the main production company from the studio system who would fund these gangster films. It felt like a gangster movie and if it felt like one to me, then it becomes a great one to remember in my books.
The first half was a bit rushed, the pacing was off but he found the pacing near the middle and that’s where it really took off. The historical accuracy and the production design with the help of the very talented Robert Richardson made it feel like an instant classic in my eyes. I feel like people tend to forget that this is also a crime noir as it was adapted quite nicely from the novel of the same title written by Dennis LeHane. It was a slow burn that introduced many different people in the span of two hours. I thought that the cast of characters really worked well together and they all shined in their own way. Chris Messina was an instant standout as Dion and his chemistry with Ben was great. The ladies of Live By Night were also fantastic, Sienna Miller was captivating, Zoe Saldana was regal and Elle Fanning was vivacious.
Ben Affleck did a wonderful job directing I loved the decisions he made and you could tell that he had fun bringing this film to the screen and paying homage to this style of filmmaking while still making it his own. I thought he suited Joe Coughlin as well, he wrote him in a way that gangsters are not usually shown. He was a more reserved gangster in contrast to Dion who would have popped anyone. He was softer around the edges and had a heart, he had a soul and his decisions not only affected those around him but he had to deal with his own struggles of actually living this life.