Say what you want about his acting skills, Ben Affleck sure has learned a lot over the years. When it comes to directing, the man is certainly aces. Oh, and that Oscar he won for Good Will Hunting 14 years ago continues to prove its worth too after Gone Baby Gone and The Town. Granted, he may not have written this latest venture, but Argo still has his fingerprints all over it. While I may not have thought he was the best lead choice for The Town, and his Shawshank Redemption ending was as ludicrous as his fake beard, doesn’t change the fact that his Junior effort just may wind up having its name called on a more than one occasion at next year’s Academy Awards.
In November 1979, the U.S. Embassy in Tehran was attacked during the Iranian Revolution. Hostages were taken, but the six who escaped went into hiding at the home of Canadian Ambassador Ken Taylor (Victor Garber). Sixty-nine days later, Tony Mendez (Affleck), is brought in by Jack O’Donnell (Bryan Cranston) to develop what turns out to be the “best bad idea” the CIA could come up with to return home Mark and Cora Lijek (Christopher Denham, Clea DuVall); Joe and Kathy Stafford (Scoot McNairy, Kerry Bishé); Bob Anders (Tate Donovan); and Henry Lee Schatz (Rory Cochrane). Tony comes up with the idea to pose as filmmakers on a location scout for their sci-fi film titled Argo, enlisting the help of Oscar-winning make up artist (John Chambers) and producer Lester Siegel (Alan Arkin) to help make their fake movie and bring the six Americans home.
When asked to describe the tone of Ben Affleck’s Argo I could say it’s the most intense comedy of the year, or the year’s funniest thriller. But the one word that most accurately depicts what goes down is “nailbiting.” You want to talk about riveting, look no further. Screenwriter Chris Terrio has stretched out Joshuah Bearman’s original Wired article (“How the CIA Used a Fake Sci-Fi Flick to Rescue Americans from Tehran”) to provide Affleck his best material yet. The last hour is one to be reckoned with, and by the time it’s finally over you have to remind yourself to breathe again. It’s seriously that riveting. Whether you already know what happens or not (I did not), there’s no denying the power behind the story of two governments working together to save the lives of six people. Chock full of fantastic performances (Affleck’s best in years) and hilarious stabs at the movie industry (Arkin and Goodman nearly steal the show), Argo really succeeds at making sure your armrest never gets a break.
Photo courtesy Warner Bros. Pictures