Ben Affleck plays real-life CIA operative Tony Mendez in “Argo.” Photo by Claire Folger
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Film Review: Affleck’s steady hand guides ‘Argo’ well

Ben Affleck masters the art of sticking to the heart of the matter as he delves into the history behind “Argo,” demonstrating that films based on real-life events can be compelling if handled with the proper care and respect. 

If I had to name one actor-turned filmmaker that has grabbed my attention on a consistent basis, it would be Ben Affleck. Ever since “Gone Baby Gone” and “The Town,” his understanding of how storytelling works has continued to develop to each new environment.

“Argo” was one of those films I reminded myself to see upon hearing about it. Given Affleck’s trustworthy reputation as a filmmaker, I had full confidence that his latest project would by no means disappoint. And to think, all it took for me to get interested in “Argo” was the CIA’s fake movie poster!

During the 1979 Iranian revolution, Islamic militants took 52 Americans hostage after storming the U.S. Embassy in Tehran. Six Americans managed to escape and hide in the Canadian Ambassador’s home. With the Iranians getting closer and closer to discovering the missing Americans’ whereabouts, the CIA turns to its “exfiltration” specialist, Tony Mendez (Affleck), for a solution.

In order to help the six Americans escape from Iran, Mendez initiates a plan of incredible proportions — one that would not have been feasible without Hollywood’s involvement.

In the director’s chair, Affleck maintains a high level of attentiveness to the setting and mood of the true events shown in the film. Be it the reconstructed 1970s-era CIA offices or the Langley headquarters interior, every detail appears authentic.

As talented an actor as Affleck is, I believe “Argo” could not have emerged victorious without the input of the real Tony Mendez. The workplace attire Affleck wears, his sense of responsibility, his personality quirks, his hairstyle, all of which came about as the result of Mendez’s influence. The terrific screenplay by Chris Terrio benefitted greatly from the facts provided by the real person.

The supporting cast members also receive their fair share of screen time to discover the purpose their real-life characters play in this heart-pounding covert operation. The ever-brilliant Bryan Cranston effortlessly balances his duty to his superiors and faith in Mendez’s ridiculous plan. John Goodman exudes the right amount of loyalty and friendship in his solid portrayal of Hollywood make-up artist John Chambers. Alan Arkin has probably the best lines as the sardonic producer Lester Siegel.

In the end, “Argo” stands as testament to the notion that truth can be a powerful story worth telling when treated in a diligent and respectful approach. And here’s to hoping the Oscar buzz this film has rightfully earned becomes a reality.

When: Now playing
Where: Wide release
Run time: 2 hours
Rating: R

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