‘Argo’ Review: Ben Affleck Has Made Complete Transition From Actor To Director
Former acting heartthrob Ben Affleck has completely reinvented himself as a top-notch director with this year’s Oscar contender, Argo. Following up on the success of The Town and Gone Baby Gone before it, Affleck’s Argo continues his maturation as craftsman behind the camera, reaching heights he was unable to reach in front of it.
Argo sees Affleck playing Tony Mendez, a real-life CIA operative who helps to rescue six U.S. hostages who are kept captive in Iran in 1980. Affleck intros the audience to the situation by blending actual footage from the period with realistic recreations of Iran demonstrations in the film. Mendez, working with Bryan Cranston’s Jack O’Donnell, develops a scheme to save the hostages by creating a fake movie, so that the hostages will act as a Canadian film crew to attempt to flee their captivity.
“Argo,” the name of the fake movie, is “created” with the help of Hollywood players, played by John Goodman and the crass but hilarious Alan Arkin. The Tinseltown aspects of the film provide required levity and balance the tension that the hostage situation holds at all other times. The fake film “Argo” has a real script and a casting session to give weight and cover to the reality that this production does exist, once the Iranian government starts to look into the matter. In the meantime, there is a race against time scenario as Iran discovers that there are traders in their midst, being held within their borders.
Affleck handles everything gracefully. There is real tension in scenes in Iran and the U.S., and given that the film is based on a true story, Affleck wisely addresses the subject with appropriate care. The main actors all give solid performances and the film will likely be in contention come awards season. I think it’s a lock to be considered for Best Picture at the Oscars, if not the current, early frontrunner. Don’t let the few missteps (an unneeded denouement; the fact that we know the outcome) dissuade you from viewing this solid film. Affleck is a true success story in Hollywood, the same way “Argo” was in this rescue mission.