No matter what you may think of him, Ben Affleck has had one hell of a career. Full of ups and downs with personal addictions and with his tumultuous relationship with the media, there was a period when many thought his career as one of Hollywood’s leading men had well and truly finished. He’s definitely having the last laugh now.
After successfully making the move behind the camera with his impressive directorial debut Gone Baby Gone, he followed it up with the highly successful Boston set crime-drama, The Town (which saw him take the lead acting role as well). Argo marks Affleck’s departure from his beloved Boston setting and into uncharted territory – a true story that incorporates social, historical and political elements within the thriller genre.
The year was 1979. The tension was reaching breaking point throughout the streets of Iran. During an anti-America protest, the American embassy was broken into and all but six Americans were kidnapped. These six managed to hide at the house of a Canadian ambassador. The race was on to evacuate these six before the kidnappers found out that they were missing. Cue Tony Mendez (Ben Affleck), a CIA ex-filtration expert who comes up with an elaborate plan that involves making a fake movie to get the six back to American soil.
Affleck has surrounded himself with an excellent cast to bring this incredible true story to life. The whole cast does a great job with fantastic turns from John Goodman, Alan Arkin and Bryan Cranston. Affleck delivers one of his best roles in a long time. His performance as a man that has put everything on the line, including his very life, to help these six strangers is what gives the film its strength. He’s an unshaven, borderline alcoholic man that has set his mind to saving people on the other side of the world. That cocky-as-hell-smug-American thing Ben Affleck has delivered before is nowhere to be found.
Behind the camera, Affleck’s work is impressive. Realism is the key here. He pours a huge amount of detail into every single scene so that being convinced is one of the last things the viewer has to worry about. There aren’t crazy visual flourishes or fascinating editing techniques to be found – just damn good filmaking to be enjoyed. Every moment is filmed with a confident hand that incorporates Rodrigo Prieto’s excellent cinematography and Alexandre Desplat’s great score. Chris Terrio’s screenplay manages to work as a cracking thriller with brains. It’s a true story but, of course, certain liberties must be taken when developing a true story into a movie. The climax is exciting and nerve wracking, if perhaps a tad too “Hollywood” in the way that plot-lines and events all manage to lead up to the same point in time. But hey, it works.
Argo feels like an instant classic. It’s a showcase for Affleck’s filmmaking and acting prowess. He has crafted an excellent period thriller that will resonate with today’s modern day audience and will please cinemagoers that want a smart, suspenseful film that leaves you more than satisfied. Argo ain’t perfect, but it’s damn close.