Wednesday, October 31, 2012

SCIENCE FRICTION?

It’s hard to believe that only a few years ago, Affleck was best known as Mr Jennifer Lopez and the star of some questionable movies. Everything changed with The Town, a brilliant crime thriller which came out in 2010 and showed that Affleck was a very capable director. Of course, he had also helmed Gone Baby Gone three years previously but The Town showed that this wasn’t a fluke.
Fast-forward to 2012 and we have Argo, the latest effort from Affleck. Argo is based on the article by Joshua Bearman about the incredible story of how the US government rescued six embassy employees from Iran just after the fall of the Shah through a subterfuge that made the Iranian authorities believe that the six were in fact in Iran making a cheesy science fiction film, Argo.
Affleck plays Tony Mendez, the fixer who is brought in by the US to make it all happen. Argo sets its stall out pretty early, and you can tell that this is a very ambitious work of US political cinema in the vein of All The President’s Men and Three Days of The Condor. They even resurrect the 1970s Warner logo.
Mendez recruits Lester Speigel (Alan Arkin) and special effects maven  John Chambers (John Goodman) to ‘make’ the film while the CIA and the Canadian government are working frantically to provide the six with fake passports to get them out.
Of course, things don’t always run that smoothly and at one point, the US government tries to pull the plug on the operation, potentially leaving Mendez in a very difficult position.
Affleck plays a pivotal role but Argo is an ensemble film and it wouldn’t have worked as well as it does without the input of the rest of the cast especially Bryan Cranston as CIA bigwig Jack O’Donnell and Arkin and Goodman make a great double act.
The film succeeds in being both light, in the scenes where we watch the filmmakers go through the motions, and dramatic, where we witness the disturbing events going on in Tehran at the same time.
Affleck has a unique lightness of touch as a director and he is able to tackle both sides of the coin with equal skill and panache.
And he is also a very accomplished actor, who knows when to eschew the limelight here for the other players in the story. Arguably, Mendez is the glue that holds the tale together but at no point does Argo feel like a star vehicle
It isn’t quite in the same league as All The President’s Men and Three Days of The Condor but it’s very close. For anyone interested in modern, intelligent cinema, run don’t walk to see Argo. It’ll be intriguing to see what Affleck does next.

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