If you had told people just a little over five years ago that actor Ben Affleck would someday become one of the best American film directors, they would’ve laughed in your face and encouraged you to seek a therapist. In 2007, Ben Affleck wowed critics and audiences with his debut feature Gone Baby Gone starring his brother Casey Affleck. His sophomore effort, the mesmerizing heist flick The Town, proved that Affleck’s filmmaking and storytelling sensibilities were progressing. He recently stepped out of Boston, his once-cinematic comfort zone, to direct the heart pounding and critically acclaimed thriller Argo. The film tells the once classified story of a C.I.A-operation to save six embassy workers from certain execution during a time of such international despair. Just released last weekend, the film proves that critics and audiences are still amazed at Affleck’s progression as a filmmaker and an actor. Argo is a film that bounds you to your seat with relentless suspense and fantastic cast.
Based on true events, the film opens in 1979 during a heated time in the Middle East as conflict arises in Iran. The conflict soon leads to an international disaster. Soon, furious and violent protestors rally in front of the U.S. embassy to voice their distress before making their way into the building and take workers within the embassy hostage. As history proves to us, American hostages were held in captivity for a total of 444 days before finally being released. The lesser-known story during this time was the story about six service workers within the U.S. embassy who managed to escape as protestors and extremists made their way into the embassy. If caught, they would’ve been executed in the public eye. After they escape, the six individuals managed to find refuge in the home of Canadian ambassador Ken Taylor.
The C.I.A decides they need to act fast. The plan is to come up with a sufficient idea to head over to Iran to rescue the six Americans in hiding. Tony Mendez (Ben Affleck), an over-worked C.I.A agent, gets subtle inspiration from a particular sci-fi film to form an outlandish plan to get the six out of Iran as quick as possible with no suspicion. His outlandish plan is to transform the identities of the six Americans into a Canadian movie crew scouting Middle Eastern locations for a Star Wars-eque sci-fi action/adventure film titled “Argo”. With the help of a Hollywood actor (Alan Arkin) and a well-known make-up artist (John Goodman), the operation gains the proper credentials to make “Argo” seem realistic. In the role of the producer of the production, Tony Mendez makes his way to Iran to carry out the plan. At first, the six Americans don’t trust Mendez. They feel nervous about his plan, feeling that it’s more of a suicide mission rather than a realistic escape. Each and every one of them eventually find the courage to put their lives on the line so they’re no longer at risk.
Not only is Ben Affleck progressing as a filmmaker/storyteller, he is also progressing as an actor. I’ve always thought that he was decent, but never great. With his impressive performances in The Town and Argo, he’s beginning to come out of his acting shell due to writing developed characters for him to portray on screen. His character, Tony Mendez, is dedicated to both his work and his son. The irony is that he can’t find the right balance between work and family. His dedication to his work has presumably strained his marriage, thus preventing him from spending more time with his son. Ben Affleck brings a much-needed sense of dramatic weight to the role. Unlike a lot of other characters Affleck has portrayed throughout his career, Mendez isn’t unlikeable by any means. We spend two hours with Mendez as he puts his life on the line. In order for the film to succeed, his character needs to be likeable. The fact that he’s a dedicated father will make audiences connect to him on a personal level. It also must be noted that Argo has a stellar supporting cast that includes Bryan Cranston, John Goodman, Alan Arkin, Kyle Chandler, Chris Messina, Victor Garber, Clea DuVall, Tate Donovan, Scott McNairy, and Rory Cochrane. Cranston, Arkin, and Goodman especially bring their own talents to their roles, thus making them significant standouts.
As you can imagine, the suspense implemented in this film is exceptional. If you happen to be familiar with the outcome of the event, I suppose there are no substantial thrills other than watching a masterfully crafted thriller unfold. The opening of the film, a mix of fictionalized and real footage of the protests establishes the profound intensity that makes the film an impressive feat. Even though the intensity level is high, there are surprising comedic moments especially during scenes with Alan Arkin and John Goodman. Adding a bit of comedy was a smart choice to implement so that some of the tension can be eased, even for just a moment. From the opening moments to the very last, Argo is a film that immediately engages and pulls you in with no intention on letting go until the final credits begin to roll. Let’s hope we don’t have to wait very long until we are treated to another cinematic effort by the continuously progressive filmmaker.
Argo – 9.5/10