Finally. A film besides Inception worth seeing this year.
Writer/director Ben Affleck (yes, there were other writers, looking at you Peter Craig) takes a Heat-inspired heist flick and infuses it with cogent character development. What is most encouraging about the structure of this story is how effortlessly it moves from Act to Act. There is never a sense that a set of predetermined bullet-points or paradigm-informed sequences are driving the actions and decisions the characters make. The honesty is most welcome. That being said, there is a very endearing way in which Affleck's Doug MacRay "saves the cat" by donning a hockey mask with his Contagonist brother-in-arms James Coughlin (Jeremy Renner), and shows what happens to people who mess with his girl.
The other, and very welcome, nod to complete solid storytelling comes at the very end when the two principal characters, Doug and Claire Keesey (Rebecca Hall), reach the moment of crisis that will ultimately determine their fates. Affleck does such a wonderful job of setting everything up for that decision that the audience really has no idea which way the narrative chips will fall. In fact, when Carrie sets him up for the F.B.I. takedown, it almost seems like Doug will be the one who ultimately Changes.
But surprise is everything, and in a sweet twist, Claire offers her "sunny days" tip, transforming her from witness to accomplice. From there, the story easily slides into Triumph. Doug escapes Charlestown, and while he still must deal with the consequences of his actions and the sins of his father, there is a sense that he has found relief in doing so.