Okay, so there’s a lot of talk lately of Ben Affleck—and not the type that he amassed just five years ago when “Bennifer” was the hottest thing in the tabloids. This time around, it’s for the momentum he’s regaining after years of critically-panned fare such as Forces of Nature (1999), Gigli (2003) and Surviving Christmas (2004). Beginning with his Golden Globe-nominated role in 2006’s Hollywoodland and leading to his directorial debut, this month’s Gone Baby Gone, Affleck has seen the kinder side of critics. But it was a long time coming after such a promising start.

The year was 1998 and as one half of the Oscar-winning screenwriting team behind Good Will Hunting, Affleck was riding high in Hollywood. After years of filling the stereotypical role of “struggling actor” through work in films like Field of Dreams (1989) and Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1992), Affleck saw his sudden good fortune as a way into the Hollywood Ivy League. His roles started getting larger and his name became a draw for audiences and studios alike. Unfortunately, with this fame came the tabloid circus and Affleck decided to withdraw.

But Affleck is back and, according to many, in top form, as the writer-director of Miramax’s Gone Baby Gone. Filmed in his native Boston and based on a book by hometown favorite Dennis Lehane (author of Mystic River), the movie follows the city’s police force (played by Affleck’s brother Casey, Michelle Monaghan, Ed Harris and Morgan Freeman) as they question their procedures and morals in the attempt to find a missing four-year-old girl. Of Affleck’s second (and arguably already successful) attempt at screenwriting, executive producer David Crockett says, “Ben is a true writer-director at heart who not only loves to write but I think has become equally passionate about seeing what that yields on the screen.” Seems like things are slowly getting back into shape.