It’s 2005, Surviving Christmas has just gone straight to DVD in AUS and NZ, copies of Pearl Harbour are found in fireplaces and bins instead of shelves and Daredevil to most was about a blind man wearing leather to boost his confidence. Did anyone ever guess that their common factor would end up being one of Hollywood’s best directors only 5 years later? Can Affleck make it three-for-three as a director with Argo, his most multilayered film? Find out after the jump.
Ben Affleck stars as Tony Mendez, a C.I.A agent assigned to rescue six American diplomats trapped during a violent revolution in Iran in 1980. Security is tight and tensions are high, as a hostage situation involving 52 Americans being held at gunpoint at the American embassy escalates and Iran becomes more chaotic and dangerous. The hostage situation itself lasted over 400 days, but in addition to this main group of hostages, six Americans escaped and are hiding at the Canadian ambassador’s house. Mendez needs a plan and fast, as the longer they remain at the ambassador’s hours, the higher the chance is that their location will be discovered, which would almost definitely result in their subsequent capture and execution.
The plan of attack? Mendez comes up with the idea of producing a fake film titled ‘Argo’, a B-grade science fiction adventure involving desert landscapes and elaborate set pieces, thus resulting in Mendez visiting Iran, finding the six Americans and passing them off as Canadian crew members working on the film. With the help of Oscar-winning make up artist John Chambers (John Goodman) and big time producer Lester Siegel (Alan Arkin) they promote the fake film so just about everyone else believes it exists. Can Mendez save them and convince the Iranian authorities that they’re a Canadian film crew before their identities are revealed?
So, before performances and screenplay can be showered with praise as usual, it must be said that even with Gone Baby Gone in his directing filmography, Argo is Ben Affleck’s best film yet. It’s directed with such precision and attention to detail, that a scene involving the Americans walking through the streets of Iran easily becomes one of the most intense scenes from any film of this year – the final fifteen minutes of this film alone are some of the best you will ever see. Tension and plot have never been so exciting and intriguing.
The film is set in the late 70’s to the very early 80’s, and from the old school Warner Bros logo that opens the film to the natural grain that washes over each frame without ever being distracting or tacky, Affleck wants you to feel like you’re watching a plot heavy, tense yet entertaining motion picture from the 1970’s ala All The President’s Men, and it’s the most effective in Argo as its ever or will ever be.
The performances are immaculate, from Affleck himself as a quiet, calm yet determined agent going above and beyond for these people; to the six Americans (played effortlessly by Scoot McNairy, Tate Donovan, Clea DuVall, Rory Cochrane, Kerry Bishe and Christopher Denham) who play their roles so effectively that you really do care for each and every one of them, going beyond their well written roles. Bryan Cranston also brings in a solid performance (as usual) as Mendez’s superior at the C.I.A along with Goodman and Arkin bringing in amazing performances proving to be much more than merely comic relief.
The screenplay, written by Chris Terrio is an incredibly multilayered one, focusing on plot throughout yet not underselling any characters in the process. The tense recuse plot infused with the satirical and humorous take on Hollywood, gives the overall story a real excitement and energy that most hollywood releases these days lack. It all gels together exceptionally well with the inclusion of humour amidst the dire situation at hand yet not once does the film ever feel inconsistent or clunky; it’s a magic trick in itself in terms of screenwriting and plotting.
As far as recent cinema releases go, this is one of the best movies you’ll ever see in a theatre or at home, and if that sounds exaggerated, ask yourself, when’s the last time you saw a film that kept you entertained, excited and tense but all in all didn’t insult your intelligence but instead indulged it? A smart cinematic anomaly that respects its audience yet reminds you of the emotion and excitement cinema can evoke from just about anyone.
Bet you never thought you’d see Ben Affleck’s name attached to a film this amazing? Don’t worry, nether did I.
By Chris Elena
Director: Ben Affleck
Writer(s): Chris Terrio
Starring: Ben Affleck, John Goodman, Alan Arkin, Scoot McNairy, Bryan Cranston, Clea
DuVall, Victor Garber.
Runtime: 120 minutes
Release Date(s): Australia & New Zealand: October 25, 2012; USA: October 12, 2012.