Posted on 10/22/12 10:02 AM
I've never thought much of Ben Affleck. He was in that awful Daredevil movie, Armageddon, and Paycheck. All in all, not exactly the greatest resume for any actor. But then he made The Town, and my opinion changed dramatically. Here was a well-written, smart, suspenseful action thriller set in my native Boston that also happened to be the best heist movie in years. But I thought it was just a fluke then. Argo proves, without a shadow of doubt, that not only is Affleck capable of acting, but of directing as well. And not only does he pull off a feat of Hitchcockian suspense, but he makes what just might be the best film of the year.
Argo takes place in 1979 during the Iran Hostage Crisis, during which the U.S. Embassy was stormed by political extremists and all but six Americans taken hostage for over eighteen months. The film follows Tony Mendez (Affleck), a CIA extraction specialist charged with escorting the six out of Iran safely. He ultimately chooses to create a fake film, and cast the six Americans as some of the production crew. From this point forward, the suspense is continuous, somehow never, ever pausing for a breath. The crew nearly starts a riot for photographing a storefront. A political protest blocks their only exit. The pictures of the six are reassembled by the Iranians, and are recognized to be missing. One of the men can't remember his fake credentials. The entire operation is cancelled while Mendez and co. are still in Iran. Not even the occasional jab at the Hollywood mentality can lighten what is a heavily emotional film.
The writing is absolutely superb as well. Each character is a fully realized human being, with hopes, fears, and doubts about their survival. Each one reacts differently to their situation, a remarkable feat that makes each one a unique character, rather than a bunch of differently-colored flags that must be returned to base. In addition to simply being a superb experience, the historical aspect is very well realized. This is not a film about the Iranian Hostage Crisis; this is a film IN the Hostage Crisis, right down to the smallest details, from the post-Star Wars sci-fi craze to Russia's invasion of Afghanistan.
Of course, I will not reveal whether or not the entire caper succeeds, but know that there as much hope as doubt throughout the picture, making success and failure seem equally plausible. Political thrillers everywhere have a higher bar to leap. Trust me when I say this, people: this is a good one.