I don’t know why I love The Town so much.
Maybe it’s because it’s so Boston, the biggest city near where I grew up in Rhode Island.
Maybe it’s because it’s an exciting, tense film based on Chris Hogan’s book.
Maybe it’s because it’s full of strong performances by actors like Ben Affleck, Jeremy Renner (nominated for an Academy Award for supporting actor, just years after his nomination for The Hurt Locker), Jon Hamm, Titus Welliver, Chris Cooper, and the late Peter Posthwaite.
It could be all of those things, but I don’t think it’s any of those by themselves.
I think it’s all of them tied into the story of a man who wants so badly to leave his past life behind and just doesn’t know how.
The film tells the story of four Boston best friends, “Doug” MacRay (Affleck), “Jem” Coughlin (Renner), “Gloansy” MacGloan (Slaine), and “Dez” Elden (Owen Burke), who pull bank and armored car heists orchestrated by Fergie Colm (Posthwaite), outside of their Charleston neighborhood. When they discover that a recently robbed bank’s assistant manager, Claire (Rebecca Hall), lives near them, MacRay infiltrates her life to keep Coughlin from doing something more violent to her.
As Claire’s goodness begins to chip away at the life MacRay has come to expect for himself, Affleck’s intelligent but trapped robber finds the noose around him getting tighter as FBI Agent Frawley (Hamm) and Dino Ciampa (Welliver), a local-turned-law enforcement officer, close in on his crew. Frustrated by the unwavering eye of the FBI and his growing tension with Coughlin, MacRay begins to plan his escape from Boston and the life of crime he inherited from his father. Unfortunately, leaving home is never quite as easy as you’d expect.
Exploring themes of justice, violence, redemption, and forgiveness, The Town has been one of the few films that I find myself watching again every few years. While we know that MacRay is a bad guy, he’s not a villain — he’s a guy we can see trapped in a world that he never wanted to be in, rolling back through stories told to the moment when he lost his mother. It’s a Western with Old Testament ideals, calling us to consider how far we’d go to extricate ourselves from bad decisions and old habits.
And in the end, we’re left with this hopeful ideal, this reminder that things will one day be better, as MacRay says:
“I’ll see you again.. this side or the other.”