Affleck shows why he's the new Clint in his hostage heist
23:11 GMT, 25 October 2012
Verdict: Tremendous thriller
Last year, the London Film Festival brought us the outstanding picture of 2011, The Artist. The most enjoyable movie I have seen there this year is Argo.
Ben Affleck’s third film as director tells an amazing but true story set against the context of the Iranian hostage crisis.
Older readers may recall that 52 Americans were held hostage for 444 days from November 1979 to January 1981, after a group of Islamist militants invaded the U.S. Embassy in Tehran.
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Hatching a plan: Ben Affleck, left, and Bryan Cranston in the new film Argo based on a true story
Unknown to us all at the time, six Americans found sanctuary in the Canadian embassy.
A preposterous plot was then hatched to smuggle them out of Iran, disguised as Canadian film-makers researching locations for a tacky rip-off of Star Wars — named, you guessed it, Argo.
It is a matter of controversy how much of the escape was planned by the Canadian ambassador (played in the movie by Victor Garber) and how much was the brainchild of CIA operative Tony Mendez (Affleck), but for cinematic purposes we see events mainly through the eyes of the latter.
The story that unfolds is always gripping and often very funny, especially when a Hollywood producer (Alan Arkin) and make-up artist (John Goodman) become involved and cast a cynical eye over the scam.
In a way, the film is all about the technique of movie-making, the spinning of stories that will persuade an audience they’re true.
The next Clint Eastwood: Affleck shows off his talent as an actor and director with Argo
Heist movies that combine comedy with thrills are notoriously difficult to pull off, as one tends to detract from the other. And any movie that deals with modern political realities — the relationship between America and Iran is arguably even more troubled now than it was then — has to be handled with a tact and awareness not often found in Hollywood films.
Affleck and screenwriter Chris Terrio surmount these problems with panache.
As an actor, Affleck has been guilty of some lazy performances that made him look lumpish and unintelligent.
However, with his third picture behind the camera he shows — as he did with Gone Baby Gone and The Town — that he’s the most talented actor-turned-director since Clint Eastwood.
Released on November 7.
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