In 1941 Orson Welles became the first man to be nominated for an Oscar in the writing, directing and acting categories in a career. While few have been nominated for a single film as Welles was (that’s fun to say!), he has been joined by filmmakers as diverse as Woody Allen and John Huston. With Argo, Ben Affleck seems destined to join that group.
In 1979 Iranian revolutionaries overran the US Embassy in Tehran, taking 52 hostages. Six Americans managed to escape the Embassy and took shelter in the home of the Canadian Ambassador to Iran. Tony Mendez (Ben Affleck) and the CIA come up with a plan so far-fetched it must be true in order to get the six home; they decide to infiltrate Iran posing as the crew for a film, Argo, which doesn’t exist.
Mendez must enlist the help of a Hollywood producer (Alan Arkin) and a make-up artist (John Goodman) to make this the most ‘real’ fake movie of all-time. They start a production studio, schedule a panel reading for the script and hold interviews. Arkin and Goodman are both fantastic as the Hollywood insiders. Arkin’s character proves that he may be older, but what he lacks in vitality he certainly makes up for in experience and knowledge of how to ‘play the game’. Goodman gives another fantastic performance as Oscar winner John Chambers.
Mendez may be alone in Iran, but at home he has a support network that is filled with some terrific actors giving terrific performances, most notably Bryan Cranston (it may be a while before it is no longer weird to see him with hair). He is very strong in the film, I just wish that he had little more screen-time.
Everyone in the movie does an excellent job, but it would not me quite so memorable if not for the talent and charisma of Ben Affleck. Yes, that Ben Affleck, the one who made Daredevil. Not only does he give a great performance, but his contribution on the other side of the lens is undeniable. The movie feels extremely 70′s, mimicking the look of films during the real Iranian hostage crisis. The decision to shoot in 35mm instead of the trendy digital format not only adds character to the movie, but it does a great job of putting you in that time period. I’m pretty sure he must have watched All The President’s Men about 100 times while making this film (a rough estimate).
For nearly a decade Ben Affleck was the punchline to jokes and was remembered as ‘that other guy in Good Will Hunting’ or ‘that guy that’s dating J.Lo’. While his film choices have not always been top-notch, the aptly-titled Paycheck comes to mind, I’ve felt that he has always been charming and a joy to watch on screen. After strong performances in recent years, and this, his third excellent turn behind the camera, no one is laughing at you anymore Ben. Nor should they be.
5 out of 5 Stars