Film: Ben Affleck stays strong with ‘Argo’

By Will Ashton | wa054010@ohiou.edu
Argo | Directed by Ben Affleck | Rated R

RATING: 3.5/5

Ben Affleck. Man, talk about making a comeback.

After years of being a celebrity laughing stock, Affleck proved once again, post-Good Will Hunting, that he actually had talent with his portrayal of George Reeves in Hollywoodland. Then, the following year, he made his directorial debut, Gone, Baby, Gone, which surprisingly proved that not only was he a good director, but that he was actually a really good director.

With The Town, his sophomore effort, he demonstrated both that his behind-the-camera talents weren’t a fluke and that he was also capable of working both in front and behind the camera very well. Now, he puts in talents again to the test in Argo, his third film as a director.

Argo follows the true story of perhaps the C.I.A.’s most bizarre (publicized) attempt to rescue a group of hostages ever. In 1979, during the Iranian Revolution, Islamic militants take over the U.S. embassy of Tehran, holding 52 Americans hostage. Six Americans were able to escape and hide in the Canadian ambassador’s home. Despite their escape, their lives are still in danger, as the Iranians are quickly piecing together that these Americans have escaped their revolt.

When considering their options for what can be done to rescue these hostages and their freedom, specialist Tony Mendez (Affleck) comes up with the “best bad idea” they’ve got: Using Hollywood connections, the C.I.A. would fund a fake space adventure film titled Argo which will be filmed in Iran for its sand-covered scenery.  Posing as scouting agents, the six hostages will pretend to be filming hot spots in order to escape on a plane and leave their Iranian dangers.

In a film that deals very much with political topics, and one that happens to come out close to the primary election, it’s refreshing and wise that Affleck and screenwriter Chris Terrio don’t boggle the film down with oversaturated political commentary. Instead, they focus on the characters and their story, and keep the film moving fast and steady, despite being two hours long.

Affleck, as a director, knows how to tell a story, and how to tell it well. His directing here is top-notch, keeping the film on the edge and making sure not to let the audience go once he gets them. Argo relies strongly on its tension, and there are some tense scenes in this film. The movie’s biggest disadvantage, though, is that we all know, or can easily predict, the ending, so its tension in many parts is not as high as it needs to be.

This also damages the level of impact the movie gives you at the end. Argo is a very simple story, and while it is one that is very well told, it’s not the most memorable of ones either. In fact, of the three films Affleck has directed thus far, this may be his weakest. Affleck also proves once again that he is more of a director than an actor, as he seems to just give an average performance in this film overall. And as our central crux, it may have been better to have hired another actor in his place and give the film more weight.

With all this said, the film is still a strong piece of cinema. Affleck’s got a great cast around him, and he knows how to use them. Strong turns by two of my favorite actors, Bryan Cranston and John Goodman, stand out alongside strong turns from Alan Arkin and Kyle Chandler. Plus, a competent and snappy script by Terrio keeps the film going strong all the way through. The movie also isn’t afraid to tell some jokes, despite some of its heavy material, and keep the audience engaged.

It’s not a great film in my opinion, but the movie is definitely a good one. Competently made, well-acted, and an all-around crowd pleasure, Argo is a tight and lively piece of patriotic filmmaking.

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