4th Nov 2012 10:28am | By Alasdair Morton
Ben Affleck was a movie star, the kind who appeared in the gossip rags, was engaged to J-Lo and made what has gone down as one of the worst movies of all time, Gigli.
Recently he’s reinvented himself as a filmmaker, and his latest, Argo, ensures he has hit home runs with all three of his directorial outings.
It’s based on the real life tale – declassified by President Clinton in 1997 – of the CIA’s plan to bring home six Americans hiding out in Iranian capital Tehran during a 1979 hostage crisis at the city’s US embassy. How did they do it? Diplomacy?
By sending in the Delta Force? Or by masquerading as a Canadian film crew scouting locations for a Star Wars knock-off? Truth is stranger than fiction.
Opening with a quick recap of Middle Eastern international relations, Affleck drops us straight in to a pulsating sequence in which the US embassy is overrun, with genuine archive footage used to sterling effect.
He manages the suspense as various clock-is-ticking mechanisms ratchet up the tension (a scouting trip through the Grand Bazaar in particular), and slides in plenty of gags about Hollywood –“You can teach a rhesus monkey to direct,” Goodman’s makeup man tells Affleck’s CIA agent as he meets with movie producers to concoct their fake film cover.
Affleck juggles the opposing genres (comedy, drama, thriller) well and the performances are top notch (Scoot McNairy, as one of the six Americans, is one to watch) in a tale celebrating individual heroism.
It plays a little loose with the facts, but as a taut caper with heart, it wholly succeeds.
Good for: An old-fashioned thriller that’s driven by narrative rather than spectacle.