Director: Ben Affleck
Starring: Ben Affleck, Alan Arkin, John Goodman, Bryan Cranston, Clea DuVall, Victor Garber, Tate Donovan
Ben Affleck is back to the director's chair with a remarkable true story. In 1979, The US embassy in Tehran, Iran is taken over by Islamic militants. While many of the staff were taken hostage, six people evade capture and are taken into hiding in the home of the Canadian ambassador (Garber). Now the US must figure out how to bring those six people out of hiding and bring them back to the US safely. Tony Mendez (Affleck) is the CIA agent that takes control of the situation and comes up with a brilliant plan.
While on the phone with his son one night, they flip to Battle of the Planet of the Apes showing on TV and watch it together. Sci-Fi movies are all the rage especially after the release of Star Wars. His plan is to go to Iran and claim they are making an exotic sci-fi picture and they are looking for shooting locations. The ruse will include the escapees as members of the film crew. The plan is very risky and can only be done if it is planned and executed down to the smallest minute detail. Mendez hires movie producer Lester Siegel (Arkin) and Oscar winning make-up artist John Chambers (Goodman) to help shape their plan. They rummage through unproduced scripts and find a winner called "Argo". They meticulously plot out everything from a fake studio, storyboards, design concepts, and they even have a fake table read of the fake script. Sci-fi/horror buffs will get a kick out of seeing Adrienne Barbeau in the table read. Like any good thriller, not everything can go smoothly to plan for Mendez and his crew.
If someone would have told me years ago that Ben Affleck would go on to be an accomplished, respected director, I probably would have laughed and made them re-watch Gigli or Reindeer Games. After winning an Oscar for writing Good Will Hunting, Ben chose to make bigger Hollywood blockbusters instead going for more serious movies. Within the past couple of years his career has taken a turn into the directing field. I was taken aback by how smart and gripping his directorial choices have been. His previous movies Gone Baby Gone and The Town both win critical and audience praise. Affleck assembles an excellent company of actors for all three of the movies he has chosen to direct. Amy Ryan and Jeremy Renner both garnered Oscar nominations for their performances in those movies.
Argo is another prime example of the skill Affleck is showing as a director. Sharp story-telling and editing keep the momentum going at a quick pace to keep the audience on the edge of their seats. There are plenty of witty lines allowing some laughs in between all of the suspense. I was consistently eyeing the costume and hair design. The look seemed authentic and real without it feeling to "costumey". Affleck has another excellent cast including Clea DuVall and Tate Donovan as two of the escapees as well as Philip Baker Hall, Bryan Crantson, Kyle Chandler, Zeljko Ivankek, and Titus Welliver. Arkin and Goodman are fantastic supporting actors and bring out the humor in each of their characters. As a rule, I don't like to throw the Oscar word around willy nilly. I am making an exception here. I think the Academy will definitely take notice of Affleck's job as a director as well as giving nominations for picture and screenplay. Possible nominations could go to Arkin and costume design. Argo will appear on many Top 10 Lists at the end of the year. Including this critic.
RATING: **** 1/2 (4.5 out of 5 stars)