Believe it or not, it has been 14 years since Ben Affleck shared the stage with Matt Damon to receive an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay for Good Will Hunting. The writer and actor went through a dark period that included Daredevil, Reindeer Games and Gigli, but Affleck has now found solace in the director’s chair. After Gone Baby Gone and The Town, the New England native decided to venture out of Boston, which turned out to be the best decision of his directing career. Affleck showcases his craft and reminds us of his acting skills in Argo, a tense political thriller that may just be his ticket to get back to hoisting the golden statuette.
Affleck guns his DeLorean to 88 and ends up in the 1979 hostage situation in Iran. Six Americans evade capture after Iranian revolutionaries overtake the U.S. embassy. Canadian Ambassador Ken Taylor hides the six staff members in his home and the CIA explore numerous plans of exfiltrating them from Iran. The government opts to go with Tony Mendez’s (a great performance from Affleck) suggestion of creating a fake science fiction film and using a cover story that guises the escapees as Canadian filmmakers scouting areas for their movie. But the more time it takes to leave, the more complicated the plan gets as the revolutionaries slowly discover the identities of the missing staff members.
Argo has a quality that many films lack nowadays, which is “having it all.” It will have you on the edge of your seat one minute, and cracking up the next. Affleck delivers the best film of his career with great narrative, building up Chris Terrio’s script to perfection while cinematographer Rodrigo Prieto gives us the occasional breather to admire the beautiful setting of a country despite it being in turmoil. Affleck really gets the best out of…himself and the rest of the star-studded cast. Bryan Cranston carries his hot streak from the tube to the silver screen as a CIA supervisor and one of Mendez’s supporters of his “best bad idea.” John Goodman and Alan Arkin provide plenty of comic relief as the movie executives intent on making a “fake hit” if a “fake movie” is going to be made. Little do they know that the production of that phony sci/fi flick in 1979 would make one of the best films of 2012.
With an all-star cast and great pacing to build a nerve-wracking climax, Argo is sure to be an Oscar contender this year. Affleck is no longer an up-and-coming director, as he has clearly established himself as one of the industry’s best.