Directed by: Ben Affleck
Starring: Ben Affleck, John Goodman, Alan Arkin, Brian Cranston
Ben Afleck has become an interesting artist to watch. Not so many years ago you might not have agreed. His personal and film choices led him astray for a number of years and threatened to destroy his career. Recently though he has proven himself a talented director. The Town was quite an achievement for someone with as little experience as he has. Now he follows that film with Argo, a film based on true events that he again directs and stars in.
Some might consider it pretty egotistical to put yourself in the lead role of a film that you are also directing. It can come off that way; ask M. Night Shyamalan (he just put himself in Lady in the Water in a small role and it still felt so damn ego driven). Affleck appears to have put himself in the role simply because he is the best man for the job though. Other actors could have played the character but he truly has a grasp on the work so why not? The film tells the true story of a lone CIA agent with a crazy plan to rescue six American citizens trapped in Iran in the late 70’s. His plan was to infiltrate Iran as a film producer scouting locations for a big budget science fiction movie along the lines of Star Wars. He would go in alone and leave the country with the six Americans posing as his film crew. Yes the plan seems crazy and the once you see the work that went into making this film, titled Argo, a “reality” it’ll seem even crazier. This story was kept classified all the way until the Clinton era when it was finally made public.
I can remember hearing the story and thought I knew the outcome. One thing I can say right off the bat is that the film is so well executed that it had me questioning my own memory of the story and what happened. The suspense is taught at various points in the film with the ending being truly nail biting. What’s also a true accomplishment is how Affleck and company were able to build in so much humor in a way that doesn’t disrespect the subject matter. The humor is not only funny to us but it’s funny to the characters speaking it. It’s generally based on the attitudes of Hollywood at the time and those who worked in the industry. This film actually recounts one of the most dramatic events in recent history in the form of a classy Hollywood film and at the same time gives up a heaping helping of f**k you to Hollywood. Bravo Mr. Affleck. You have just gained a whole new level of respect from me.
The directing is just nearly spot on here. The film is shot and assembled in a very 80’sesque style which makes it even feel more legitimately of the era in which the story is set. There are subtle hints of over-saturation and grain added in perfect spots to make some of the footage feel aged. He’s definitely an actor’s director and he takes full advantage of his stellar cast. Most notable of the cast is of course John Goodman and Alan Arkin. Both of these actors are of a group of great performers who just haven’t been given the meaty roles they deserve in recent years. These two really show heir stuff in this film in both dramatic suspenseful moments and moments of perfect levity. They run the Hollywood machine for Affleck’s CIA agent. Brian Cranston has a smaller less meaty role here but he makes it his own.
I wanted to give Argo a 10 out of 10 and I almost did. The one issue I take with the film is the moment of Hollywood high fiving and people applauding each other when one thing gets done right. The movie is so reality driven up to this point that the scene took me out of the film for a moment. This kind of thing is really common in Hollywood films and I generally always despise it. It would have been nice to have seen Affleck do something a little more real with that particular scene. I guarantee that in most cases, no matter how good something came out people don’t applaud themselves and each other in an office for example. This is a minor quibble though. Argo is easily one of the best films of 2012 and if Affleck isn’t recognized with a best director nomination by the Academy it’ll be a true crime.