Brian Henry Martin at the movies

The Talented Ben Affleck

Published Thursday, 08 November 2012
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Ten years ago, his acting career was on the slide after a slue of disastrous blockbusters. Pearl Harbour, Daredevil and Gigli had assigned Ben Affleck to the movie star scrap heap.

But with his new film, Argo, a smart and sharp political thriller, he has become one of the best directors in Hollywood.

Ben Affleck's star has been on the rise ever since his startling directorial debut, Gone Baby Gone, wowed audiences and critics back in 2007. Now, his third film Argo, the true story of a fake film, completes his amazing reversal of fortune.

Based on real events, Argo reveals the life-or-death covert operation to rescue six American diplomats stranded during the turbulent Iranian hostage crisis. Amazingly, the CIA joined forces with Hollywood to create one of the most incredible stories in recent US history. And a shrouded saga that was only declassified by President Clinton many years after the event.

Argo begins in November 1979, as the Iranian revolution reaches its boiling point. Militants storm the US Embassy in Tehran and terrifyingly take 52 Americans hostage.

In the midst of the chaos, six Americans manage to slip away and find refuge in the home of the Canadian Ambassador. Knowing that it is only a matter of time before they are discovered and maybe shot as spies, the CIA are requested to intervene.

The CIA turns to top extractor, Tony Mendez (played by Ben Affleck) to devise a sensible scheme to get the secret six out of the country. He doesn't. Inspired by the Planet Of The Apes movie his son is watching on TV, Mendez's master plan is to fabricate the making of a sci-fi blockbuster in Tehran. A trashy Iranian Star Wars rip-off named Argo, contrived with screenplay, storyboards and Variety ads, which will act as the perfect cover for a daring escape.

"This is the best bad idea we've had by far" CIA Chief Jack O'Donnell (Bryan Cranston) tells the White House. In LA, monster make-up artist John Chambers (John Goodman) is recruited. "So you want to come to Hollywood, act like a big shot and do nothing?" Chambers asks Mendez"You'll fit right in". Even Argo's veteran movie producer Lester Siegal (Alan Arkin) believes "We had suicide missions in the Army that had better odds than this!".

Project Argo gets the green light and few pre-productions have ever been this exciting.

The shaggy and bearded Ben Affleck, barely recognisable from his former self, gives a great lead performance. Understated, intense and steely-eyed, Affleck has the screen presence of legendary actor/director Clint Eastwood.

Once again the 1970s provides a stylish and refreshing backdrop. Argo taps into the great political thrillers of this paranoid decade. This pre-digital age of rotary telephones and telexes makes the world a bigger place and ensures there are no easy ways out.

The airport finale of Argo is as gripping as anything you will experience in the cinema. Affleck's taunt direction of the tense action keeps you firmly on the edge of your seat. Enjoy the ride, this is one of the best films of the year.

Argo (Cert 15) is now on general release.

© UTV News
B. H. Martin
B. H. Martin

Brian Henry Martin is an accomplished documentary filmmaker and UTV's resident film critic, appearing regularly on UTV Live Tonight.

No matter what the film, there's a good chance Brian has seen it.


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