Film Review: Ben Affleck Reaches Career Peak with Masterful ‘Argo’

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CHICAGO – Ben Affleck has reached the apex of his already impressive directorial career with the stunning “Argo,” a tight, tense machine of a film, a masterwork that delivers as comedy, action, drama, and more. Critics see movies all the time that we understand may produce a divided response. We get that many acclaimed films won’t make a dent with the populous. Every once in awhile, I see a film and just know that it will resonate with every demographic around the country. “Argo” is one of those films. To be blunt, I’d be stunned if you didn’t at least like it and I expect most of you will love it.

HollywoodChicago.com Oscarman rating: 5.0/5.0
Rating: 5.0/5.0

Affleck brilliantly sets the stage with the assault on the U.S. Embassy in Iran using archival footage and disturbing recreations of the protesters storming the building (and it’s impossible not to think of recent similar activity in the Middle East) as six Americans snuck out the back door – Bob Anders (Tate Donovan), Cora Lijek (Clea DuVall), Joe Stafford (Scoot McNairy), Lee Schatz (Rory Cochrane), Mark Lijek (Christopher Denham), and Kathy Stafford (Kerry Bishé). They made it to the home of the Canadian Ambassador (Victor Garber) and were forced to hide out as the Iranian hostage crisis continued. As concerns grew that the terrorists would discover that there were missing Americans from their hostage plan, the C.I.A. clicked into gear and began to plan ways to extract the six. They needed a story and Tony Mendez (Ben Affleck) & Jack O’Donnell (Bryan Cranston) devised a brilliant one.

StarRead Brian Tallerico’s full review of “Argo” in our reviews section.

Working with Hollywood producers John Chambers (John Goodman) and Lester Siegel (Alan Arkin), Mendez created an entirely fictional feature film production with the name of “Argo.” They dug a sci-fi script out of a pile of turnaround junk in Siegel’s office and created an entire history and planned future around it. The plan would be to convince the Iranians that the six men and women being led out of their country were merely location scouts for “Argo.” Every detail needed to be precise. If they called someone in L.A. to check up on the story, someone needed to answer the phone. And all six men and women needed to have precise, unwavering false identities.

As the recently declassified plan within the film had no room for error, neither did Ben Affleck’s retelling of it. This could have been such a tonal disaster if one considers how wildly the story veers from Hollywood production meetings to CIA offices to an embassy in Iran. Like the directors that so clearly inspired Affleck (William Friedkin, Sidney Lumet, among others) so often did with true stories turned into captivating entertainment, the actor/director has made such a fine-tuned, well-oiled machine of a film. It just hums as Affleck and editor William Goldenberg (“Heat,” “The Insider”) have paced their storytelling with such finesse that even the most disparate elements of the film seem of a whole. Working with an insanely talented crew that also includes cinematographer Rodrigo Prieto (“Babel,” “Brokeback Mountain”), Affleck has made a film that features multiple locations, dozens of speaking roles, and the kind of tonal shifting that veterans routinely screw up and he’s not only dodged the many potential pitfalls but made a modern classic by doing so.

StarContinue reading for Brian Tallerico’s full “Argo” review.

“Argo” stars Ben Affleck, Bryan Cranston, John Goodman, Alan Arkin, Tate Donovan, Scoot McNairy, Rory Cochrane, Christopher Denham, Kerry Bishe, Clea DuVall, and Chris Messina. It was written by Chris Terrio and directed by Ben Affleck. It opens on October 12, 2012.

Argo
Argo
Photo credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

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