After building a name for himself as a director with his two acclaimed Boston-set crime dramas Gone Baby Gone (2007) and The Town (2010), Ben Affleck is back for his third directorial endeavour. Unlike its predecessors, however, the new feature called Argo takes us out of Mr. Affleck’s comfort zone, and on trip out of his favourite setting Boston…way out! Tehran, to be precise! The result is an intelligent and engrossing film, which walks the fine border between drama and comedy, reality and fiction, heroism and fear, without failing to keep audiences engaged for even a second.
Argo’s biggest achievement is that the film blends nail-biting suspense and unexpected humour to successfully convey the terror of a tumultuous time without being too dark or gruesome. After tapping into the ever relevant topic of political power struggles, Ben Affleck transports us from Washington DC to Hollywood, where the movie transforms into a skilful industry spoof, boasting masterful performances by Alan Arkin and John Goodman, and hilarious one-liners like “If I’m gonna make a fake movie, it’s gonna be a fake hit!” and “Ar-go fuck yourselves!”. From then on, Tony Mendez (Ben Affleck) boards the possibly one-way flight to Tehran, where the anticipation and apprehension reach mind-blowing levels. The drama in this third act builds upon the distinctive feeling that the American hostages are not going to make it out alive. And although the audiences with little previous knowledge and commitment to the true events would assume that since a movie has been made, everyone ultimately makes it save and sound to American soil, another film based on a real story (A Mighty Heart (2007)) can be recalled, where the kidnapped in Pakistan journalist Daniel Pearl is eventually decapitated. Consequently, the tension and uncertainty in the last part of Argo will keep you not only on the edge of your seat, but so far past the edge, you might end up falling into the row in front of you!
Another strong point is that director Ben Affleck doesn’t give actor Ben Affleck a big inspirational speech or an overabundance of dramatic musings moments to steal the limelight from the central story. What is more, even though the story itself seems more than fantastic, what helps for it to be conceived as plausible is the ending which although nerve-racking, does not appear to be overly complex and theatrical as per the usual Hollywood manner. Add to this the visual old-school feel and you have a classic espionage thriller!
Argo’s nerve-frying thrills, well-measured laughs and brilliant, but not showy performances all add up to the ultimate skilfully structured entertainment the movie is. The biggest credit goes to Ben Affleck who manages to mix all of those together so that they perfectly compliment rather than counteract each other. The only deficiency the feature has is with regard to its rewatchability, because once you know the story, the film cannot benefit from its biggest asset – the suspense. But then again, a masterpiece like this will stay one for the foreseeable future, so Argo will definitely be worth revisiting in a few years, when the memories of what exactly happens are a little faded, so the tension can be restored.
4/5 Marvelous points