Friday, 9 November 2012


Think back if you will, or indeed, if you can. The name Ben Affleck. Causes you to smirk? Or think "that Matt Damon did alright for himself, wonder what happened to his mate?" Who would have thought that Affleck would not only come so far, but be so good?

For indeed he has. And is. Smirking is no longer an option.

With a steady slew on films on his CV that have both won critical and financial success, Affleck is a name that evokes a feeling not too dissimilar from Eastwood's when attached to a new release with his eye behind the camera and his face infront of it. One of anticipation and expectation - afterall, The Town and Gone, Baby Gone were fantastic pieces of work so can he replicate it again?

Simply put, yes he can. However, this is not the Affleck that we've been introduced to. There is no working class, family feuding drama from the streets of either his hometown of Boston or similar. Here he has truly spread his wings with the true story of the attempt to rescue six escaped American diplomats after the fall of their Embassy before the Iranians realise that they're missing. So, "how do we like them apples?" Alot.

Right from the outset, the attention to detail, or as the main American characters are trying to do here, the attention to deception, is outstanding. For a start there's the old style Warners' logo present from the very beginning. Then the filmstock used looks like it was filmed in the 70's to the point where the distinction between original footage and new is indistinguishable. At the beginning of the film, this confusion only helps to add to the tension felt by the viewer as the Embassy staff try to remain calm and follow protocol until the point where the front doors and windows are stormed by the worked-up crowd outside. And that's even before you've gotten to the beards and the flares!

Like the beards and the flares, there's two very distinct groups here throughout Argo - the Americans securely based in their sunny climate where all is suited-and-booted (albeit with back-stabbing, own-ass-saving motives) and of course the out-of-towners where the sun doesn't necessarily shine on TV and where the background of gunfire, hostile shouts and lack of sunshine is a constant reminder and threat throughout.

With careful plotting, depiction and narrative, Affleck and co place the story into three very different and recognisable categories - the suits in the American Government (CIA, The Whitehouse etc with this years unstoppable Cranston), the Hollywood Hacks (the sublime Arkin and Goodman) and the pawns in the bigger picture in Iran (the six fugitives and their helpers including the incredulous McNairy as the "you've gotta be joking?!?!" fugitive) - each with their own tone of lighting, mood and pace. It's not until all the three start to meld together in the final 25 minutes that everything becomes blurred to the point of nail-biting, armrest-grabbing anticipation.  It's been that well thought out.

Now, the issue with all "Based On A True Story" movies is that pretty much all of them are on the edge of far-too-good-to-be-true and leave you feeling that alot must have been embellished along the way to make it into a two hour-plus film. There is only one point throughout it;s entirety when Argo feels like the screenplay writers have stepped outside the boundaries of realism to help make an entertaining movie and even then it comes across as the Grandad to the finale of Die Hard 2.

A truly gripping piece of film-making, Affleck has proven that his last two previous efforts were not flukes and that he can now stretch himself away from Boston-based family dramas and is indeed truly a force not only to be reckoned with but one to be taken note of in the future. His handling on a subject that Spielberg would have considered is a testament not only to his guts but to his glory too.

Essential and downright enthralling viewing.

UK release date: 07.11.12
Certificate: 15

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