You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

‘Town’s’ unfussy authenticity

Drama takes story to streets of Charlestown

A slick, modern caper movie directed by and starring Ben Affleck, “The Town” might seem to be another in a long series of caper films with a kinetic, ingeniously filmed heist at its heart. True, the film climaxes with the protagonists waltzing into Fenway Park and helping themselves to millions. But according to cinematographer Robert Elswit, Affleck saw “The Town” as a tragic story involving three very well-drawn characters.

The title refers to Charlestown, the insular neighborhood north of Boston known as a breeding ground for notorious bank robbers. Affleck’s character falls for a bank manager (Rebecca Hall) who is the victim of one of his heists.

“It was extremely important to Ben that we film the story in the actual locations in Charlestown,” says Elswit, who won an Oscar for “There Will Be Blood.” “We set out to create images that were unfussy and unselfconscious, and to avoid noirish shadows that would make it feel moody and atmospheric. The homes, bars and banks where the story unfolds all had to look and feel like real spaces. Shooting in them was difficult sometimes, but that gives the film an authenticity that you can’t build or fake.”

Affleck and Elswit chose the Super 35 film format, which results in a widescreen 2.40:1 aspect ratio. The heists and shootouts tended to be shot handheld to ratchet up the tension. Dialog-driven scenes were usually lit simply and feature extensive close-ups.

One similarity to the classic caper film was an extensive car chase through the narrow streets of Charlestown, filmed by second unit director/cinematographer Alexander Witt.

“The car work is just remarkable, and it cuts really well with the first unit stuff with the main actors,” says Elswit. “I don’t think anyone has ever done car chases and gunfights like that in the streets of Charlestown, and it really helps build a real sense of the world these characters live in.”

More from Eye on the Oscars: The Cinematography
From pretty pictures to fatal beauty | Filming ‘Hours’ a challenge | Is it real or is it fx? | Sensuality floods frame | ‘Town’s’ unfussy authenticity | Read my lips | Gothic tone asserts itself

Popular on Variety

More Film

  • Jay and Silent Bob Reboot

    Film Review: 'Jay and Silent Bob Reboot'

    In a film culture overrun by Marvel epics, wild-stunt action flicks, and other grandiose juvenilia, it is often said that the mid-budget, script-driven movie for adults is becoming a thing of the past. But don’t tell that to Kevin Smith, whose “Jay and Silent Bob Reboot,” a shaggy antic throwaway that premiered Tuesday in the [...]

  • So Long, My Son directed by

    Wang Xiaoshuai's 'So Long, My Son' Earns Six APSA Nominations

    Chinese drama, “So Long, My Son,” was nominated in six categories for this year’s Asia Pacific Screen Awards. The unprecedented haul makes it a clear favorite. The Wang Xiaoshuai-directed drama about separation, secrets, a lifetime of regret, and the consequences of China’s one child policy, had its premiere in February at the Berlin festival. There [...]

  • Alan Rickman

    Film News Roundup: 'Galaxy Quest' Documentary Set for Release

    In today’s film news roundup, rescue drama “Not Without Hope” is back in development, a “Galaxy Quest” documentary is set for release, “The Two Popes” wins another award, and Ella Joyce gets cast. PROJECT REVIVED U.K.-based financing-production outfit Goldfinch has bought feature film rights to Nick Schuyler’s “Not Without Hope” and signed “The Fog” director [...]

  • Ryan Reynolds John Krasinkski

    Ryan Reynolds, John Krasinski in Talks for 'Imaginary Friends' Movie

    Ryan Reynolds and John Krasinski are in talks to board the fantasy comedy “Imaginary Friends” at Paramount Studios. Paramount recently won the bidding for the property over Lionsgate and Sony. Krasinski will write, direct,  produce and star while Reynolds will co-star if the deals go through. The story centers on a man who can see [...]

  • Willem Dafoe attends the "Motherless Brooklyn"

    Willem Dafoe Joins Guillermo Del Toro's 'Nightmare Alley'

    Willem Dafoe has closed a deal to join Bradley Cooper, Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara in Guillermo del Toro’s adaptation of “Nightmare Alley.” Collider had first reported that Dafoe was being considered for a role in the film, but sources now say the “Lighthouse” star has closed a deal to join the cast. The “At [...]

  • 'To the Ends of the Earth'

    Busan Film Review: 'To the Ends of the Earth'

    “To the Ends of the Earth,” the story of a young Japanese journalist’s experiences in Uzbekistan filming a report for a Japanese TV travel show, was originally commissioned to celebrate 25 years of cordial diplomatic relations between director Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s hyper-developed island homeland and the less affluent, landlocked Central Asian nation. As such we might [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content