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Directed by Ben Affleck
Release date: In theaters
What is it about Ben Affleck as a director that I like so much? Maybe it's his answer in a recent Details interview: "I need my work to mean something to me in order for me to not be home with [my family.]" When a director approaches projects with that mindset, I'm more likely to trust that what is on the screen isn't going to waste my time, because he didn't want to waste his in making it to begin with. And it shows in the trailer for Argo, Affleck's third film (after Gone Baby Gone and The Town).
There is only one trailer for Argo, and it was the only trailer needed because this one is excellent. The story is loosely based on the events surrounding 6 American diplomats who escaped the seizure of the U.S. embassy in Tehran during the Iranian Hostage Crisis of 1979. While most of the diplomats were taken hostage, the CIA worked to extricate the 6 from their hiding place in the Canadian ambassador's home. Before even getting into the meat of the story, I am already in love with the visual style of the film: classic 70's facial hair, earth tones, big glasses; the use of shredded photos interspersed throughout, which in this digital age feels like an homage as well as a stylistic choice. Every face I see is recognizable but transformed -- Judy Greer! Bryan Cranston! Kyle Chandler! Most of all, Victor Garber looking slim and years younger as the Canadian ambassador, Ken Taylor, who had an extremely important role in how events played out. (Affleck, who after hearing about Taylor's inclusion, was concerned about trumping up America's involvement at other players' expense and invited the former ambassador to his home to view the film; changes were later made to the script.)
Then, just when you think it's a straight political thriller, a twist of tone: "If I'm gonna make a fake movie, it's gonna be a fake hit," insists Alan Arkin, confirming that so desperate was the situation, the government would say "yes" to this plan. The bulk of the film, then, follows the crazy events that transpired to bring a fake production team to Iran to make "Argo," a fake science fiction film taking place on Mars, and then attempt to evacuate the 6 hidden ambassadors as the undercover stars of the film. Does it work? You can spoil it with a quick Wikipedia search if you like, but I have a feeling it wouldn't make a difference. Ben Affleck looks to have combined a compelling story with original characters, a fast-paced plot, all set in Iran during a slightly romanticized, very politically-charged time in our history. Best Director nods are a lock, and if you're a fan of the filmmaking process, this movie might hold an extra dimension of interest because of the "film within a film" aspect. See it in theaters now.
NEXT WEEK: Zero Dark Thirty