Throughout his career Ben Affleck has been hounded by the negativity of critics and moviegoers alike. He may be one of the most heavily scrutinized actors of our time, having once been Hollywoods Golden Boy then fading away into obscurity after several critical and box-office flops. Affleck has managed to overcome this stigma and revive his career as an actor while also emerging as one of the best and fastest rising directors in current-day cinema. With critically acclaimed films like Gone Baby Gone and The Town under his belt, Afflecks next project Argo has built up immense anticipation.
Argo is one of those stranger-than-fiction stories that make you do a mental double-take. When the U.S. Embassy in Iran was overrun by protesters in the hostage crisis of 1979, six U.S. nationals were able to escape and hideout at the Canadian embassy. The State Department and various intelligence agencies end up hitting walls while trying to come up with a way to successfully extract the embassy workers, even proposing that the escapees bike their way to the Turkish border all the way from Tehran. Enter Tony Mendez (Affleck), the CIAs resident expert on exfil and hero of the film. After receiving inspiration while viewing Planet of the Apes, Mendez begins to formulate a complex and daring extraction plan. The strategy to be implemented was to sneak the escaped embassy workers out of the country by having them pose as a Canadian film crew who is scouting Iran for exotic shooting locations. The crew is composed of Mendez and the six potential escapees. With the realization that this is the best bad option they have, the CIA green-lights Mendezs Hollywood Option.
While the film falls somewhat short of expectations, the individual efforts allow for Argo to be quite entertaining. Affleck continues to demonstrate his skill behind the camera, as the story is well developed and the film is very well shot. Alan Arkin and John Goodman steal every scene they are in with their cranky, old-bastard humor and attitude. These two veteran actors outshine everyone else in the film and bring tremendous amounts of comic relief in what is otherwise a serious film. Bryan Cranston turns in a solid performance in a role that doesnt demand too much. The rest of the actors in the film, including Affleck, dont give much to talk about. Some of them are borderline annoying, but that may be the intent given the lengths that production has gone to be faithful to the original events. The films ultimate downfall is its lack of suspense. The subject matter of Argo should be enough to make the movie suspenseful. Extracting six U.S. nationals from revolutionary Tehran is something that demands suspense, yet thats what the movie lacks.
While this may not be his best directorial effort, it does demonstrate Afflecks growth as a director. He certainly has a knack for choosing engaging source material and transposing it successfully to film. I dont believe Affleck will ever win an Academy Award for his acting, but if he keeps refining his craft behind the camera, I see an Oscar somewhere down the road. That being said, the Hollywood Option of Argo was not as good as it could of been, but is still entertaining and engaging enough to merit a viewing.