Skepticism was high when Ben Affleck directed his first
feature in 2007. "Gone Baby Gone" turned out to be pretty good. His
next film, 2010's "The Town," was even better. This year, Affleck released his
first masterpiece. Third time's the charm.
"Argo" is loosely based on the true story of a CIA
operative who rescued six American diplomats from Tehran during the Iran hostage
crisis in 1979. Affleck's previous films were crime dramas enriched by their
atmospheric Boston settings. "Argo" is more of a classic thriller, but it's
equally served by the director's eye for detail and sense of place.
The movie achieves the rarest of feats: It turns a widely known historical
event into an impossibly tense mystery. The suspense during the final third of
"Argo" is higher than any horror movie released this year.
"Argo" is also sprinkled with dark comedic moments about the inanity of
making movies. Alan Arkin and John Goodman give inspired performances as old
Hollywood types who whip together a sci-fi flick cover story for the mission.
If anyone understands the rough side of Hollywood, it's Affleck. Since
winning an Oscar 15 years ago for co-writing "Good Will Hunting," Affleck has
floundered in Tinseltown. His acting résumé is full of regrettable flops and
widely hated blockbusters.
With "Argo," Affleck has finally found his niche. He directs intelligent
crime thrillers. And, oh yeah, he's also great in front of the camera. Remind
anyone of a certain octogenarian? -- Frank Paiva
Bing: More about 'Argo' | More on Ben Affleck
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(Warner Bros. Pictures)