Love him or hate him, you’d be a fool to deny the ambition of Ben Affleck. Riding on the wave of stardom that came from his acting career and an Oscar-winning screenplay in the form of Good Will Hunting, he tried his hand at directing and with it found a brilliantly fresh new voice. Clearly a man who truly loves cinema, he has pushed his creative boundaries time and time again and with this his third directorial effort, Affleck cements his status as one of the most talented directors in Hollywood today.
Following the brilliant Gone Baby Gone and The Town, Argo sets out to prove Affleck isn’t going to play it safe. A true story (though hard to believe) of a recently de-classified CIA operation the action takes place in the 1970s during the hostage crisis at the American embassy in Tehran where 6 delegates found themselves in hiding in the home of the Canadian ambassador, unable to reach any help. A CIA operative Tony Mendez (Affleck) comes up with the idea of producing a fake Canadian science-fiction film that is holding a location scout in Tehran, thereby enabling the 6 trapped Americans to fly out without being apprehend as American spies.
Initially this film feels like a tough political thriller with a script so tight that Aaron Sorkin would struggle to top, which then moves into fast paced espionage territory and concludes with an incredibly tense finale that grabs you by the throat and pushes your comfort level to breaking point. And then there’s the middle of the film that could easily have damaged the film beyond repair, this follow’s Mendez’s trip to Hollywood to set up this fake picture with the help of the hilarious Alan Arkin and John Goodman. This section more closely resembles an all-out comedy, providing a brilliant satire on the fickle nature of Hollywood film-making, as Arkin sneers when asked if he thinks the plan can work “you could teach a reese monkey to be director in a day.”
In spite of this observation, credit in the success of this film lies hugely on Affleck as he somehow succeeds in bring these hugely contrasting genre elements together into a fantastically entertaining piece of work. While the result may to some seems jarring and a little forced, for me this was a brilliantly crafted and perfectly performed period piece that never had a dull moment. Long may you continue Mr. Affleck.
Argo (2012), directed by Ben Affleck, is distributed in the UK by Warner Bros. Pictures, Certificate 15