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Argo
Genre Thriller
 
Review:

Ben Affleck has been to Hollywood and got the t-shirt. As an actor, his career has been tumultuous - racking up a hit-and-miss list with roles ranging from romantic leads to superheroes. As a writer, his career started as a one-hit wonder, winning an Oscar with Matt Damon for Good Will Hunting. As a director, he's quickly becoming a Hollywood great in the same class as Clint Eastwood with Gone Baby Gone, The Town and now Argo.

Affleck has also become a family man over the last seven years, after marrying Jennifer Garner. The father-of-three has changed his view on life, wanting to leave a legacy... something of substance after he's gone. Garner has been a strong and positive influence on Affleck's career, helping him achieve some of his finest work as an actor and director. He's matured into a well-respected director, one who has a mantelpiece of accolades for his efforts only three films in.

You need a strong story to make a great film and Argo is an excellent example. Argo is based on the book, The Master of Disguise, by the man behind it all, Tony Mendez. The ex-CIA agent details his role in the 1980 joint CIA-Canadian mission to rescue six American embassy fugitives out of revolutionary Iran. In a bold move, Mendez convinced film-makers, the media and his CIA colleagues that he could extract the American fugitives, posing as the film director of Argo, a science-fiction film being canvassed in Iran.

You don't have to tamper too much with the story, which would be difficult to believe if it wasn't true. Secret missions, CIA agents, international incidents, the film industry... Argo has some entertaining cross-overs, which draw some interesting contrasts between the art of film-making and espionage. It's an intriguing and timely story, which Affleck intensifies with smart, sure-footed direction - shooting on regular film and modifying for a more authentic graininess.

Argo is the sort of film you'd expect George Clooney to star in. This speaks to the film's quality, the story's gravity and the politically-charged scenario. While Clooney is on-board as a producer, Argo has a tongue-in-cheek attitude that softens the edges allowing plenty of space for levity. The faking a film production makes allowances for characters to poke fun at the industry, while the Iran situation gives Affleck a chance to ratchet up the grave seriousness of the operation.

It's a team effort with Affleck captaining a solid cast of underrated actors on a mission of their own. While Alan Arkin's supporting role garnered an Oscar nomination for his performance and "coining" the film's off-colour catchphrase, it's really representative of a great ensemble effort with Ben Affleck, Bryan Cranston, John Goodman and Victor Garber adding their collective consistency, experience and reliability to the production.

The production values are terrific, bringing 1980 back to life and jumping between CIA boardroom drama and Hollywood lot comedy to a suspenseful international hostage crisis in Iran. Argo incorporates news footage, which is done in such a way that it's difficult to tell if it's from the era or dramatised. While it's commendable on the whole, there are a few flinch moments where the 1980 fashion and comedic tone detract from the overall seriousness of the fake film scenario. Ben Affeck as Barry Gibb, doesn't help matters.

Great writing ensures that the story never capsizes into all-out comedy or suspense thriller. The script is well-weighted, giving a good spread of screen time to the sizable cast, while maintaining some difficult tonal shifts. We're entranced by an entertaining caper, a film that exacts truth with a cheeky sense of humour, delivering a fascinating story with diligent, hard-earned turn outs in every department.

Although Argo isn't particularly brilliant in any one department, it's brilliant by virtue of the fact that each and every department shared a common vision and had faith in a great story, undertaken by a strong leader in Ben Affleck.

The bottom line: All-rounder

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