While Ben Affleck may not be the world's most revered actor, he is quickly coming up the ranks as a director. All of his feature-length directorial efforts have been rewarded with Academy Award nominations in one capacity or another, and it looks like his latest feature, "Argo," will be no different.
Using the Iranian hostage crisis as a jumping-off point, "Argo" deals with six Americans who were able to escape from the American Embassy in Iran before it was taken over. Hiding out in the home of the Canadian ambassador, the six remain trapped, unable to leave out of fear they will be discovered as Americans and killed. However, they can't stay with the Canadian ambassador forever, so the CIA, in conjuction with the Canadian government, hatch a scheme to make a fake Canadian film on location scouting in Iran in order to smuggle the Americans out.
What makes "Argo" rise above an averge run-of-the-mill thriller is the fact that it can keep the tension rising, despite the audience more than likely knowing how it's going to end. And while the film is not entirely accurate in its depiction of historical events, the emotion behind the fiction is undoubtedly real and indicative of how the film's real-life counterparts were feeling.
The real standout here is the performances; yes, even Ben Affleck, who is able to maintain a calm, cool and collected persona, even with his life on the line. He's confident on the outside, but there's a sense of urgency within. It's one of his best performances to date. Bryan Cranston, who is currently one of the best actors working in television on AMC's "Breaking Bad," is able to switch from concerned to outraged in just a few seconds. But what really makes the film crackle and pop is the Hollywood crew. John Goodman as an Oscar-winning makeup artist and Alan Arkin as a Hollywood film producer gives the film the levity it would be otherwise lacking.
"If I'm gonna be making a fake film, it's gonna be a fake hit," Arkin's character proclaims. It's surprising just how funny "Argo" is given its deadly serious subject matter. The actors portraying the six hostages are made up of just enough known and unknown actors to make their performances that much more believeable. The fighting between them feels real and perfectly carries the dramatic weight of people making a difficult decision that could cost them their lives.
It's no surprise that "Argo" has been declared one of the best pictures of the year. It's smart, entertaining, funny, suspenseful and engaging from the opening shot of the American flag burning to the postscript at the end.
Scott Viau can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.