Who knew that Ben Affleck, star of “Gigli”, one of the most critically and commercially unsuccessful films of all time, would turn out to be such a talented director.
I’ve not seen The Town but thought Gone Baby Gone was an excellent film and an overall decent adaptation, although I’m still waiting for the other books in Dennis Lehane’s detective series to be made.
Affleck is once again in the director’s chair for Argo, based on the true story of C.I.A exfiltration expert Tony Mendez who under the guise of making a sci-fi film, Argo, attempts to extract six American diplomatic personnel, on the run, out of Iran during the Revolution in 1979.
I love these kinds of stories, the bizarre but ingenious ideas that our governments and the people within it come up with in times of crisis and when I read the plot for this film it reminded me of something a modern day Churchill would have come up with.
Argo is strange in that it feels like two films in one. You have the first half of the film which borderlines on being a dark comedy, with the deadpan government agent having to deal with the big personalities of Hollywood, trying to get a fake film off the ground and then you have the second half which is a tense, edge of your seat thriller. The fact that it is just as much a comedy as it is a thriller doesn’t hinder the film at all though and by the end I was well and truly enthralled in what was going on, muttering under my breath at the screen and hoping for a happy ending.
Once again, it must be said, I am impressed with Ben Affleck’s directing, here paying homage to the films of the 70’s, with the overlapping dialogue, grainy film and an overall much more reserved thriller as opposed to the big action spectacle we are so used to seeing now. He does a great job in making us as a viewer feel as if this film was plucked directly out of that era and seeing the old school Warner Brothers logo and references to films of that time (Planet of the Apes) put a smile on my face.
Completely different to Gone Baby Gone, it’s clear that Affleck is adaptable and it will be interesting to see which project he takes on next.
It’s a shame, however, that it’s his performance as Tony Mendez that dragged the film down for me. Surrounded by a flawless supporting cast, Affleck’s performance felt a bit wooden to me and had he stayed behind the camera and cast someone else in the role I think I would have found myself caring for Mendez a little more.
John Goodman and Alan Arkin steal the show in every scene they are in, bouncing off one another perfectly and I could have easily watched a whole film based around their two characters. Bryan Cranston, who should be in a lot more films than he is, puts in yet another great performance in his supporting role too. Across the board in fact I would say there isn’t a single bad performance, except Affleck’s.
Overall, there is very little to complain about with Argo and whilst Ben Affleck’s performance isn’t the greatest, he more than redeems himself with his directing. The film has a tight script but more importantly a great story to tell, all the more enthralling due to the truth behind it. Whereas I won’t be rushing out to see it again, Argo is an ideal Saturday night thriller. More than that though it showcases Ben Affleck’s skills as a director and with rumours of him directing The Justice League, I think this is still just the beginning of a long line of great films we can expect from him in the future.