Ben Affleck can direct a film, can’t he? This is old news, of course after his break through with Gone Baby, Gone (Which I still haven’t seen, shhhhh. But, people tell me it’s great), and his sophomore effort The Town which is terrific in so many ways that play towards my personal interests and filmic sweet spots. I don’t really wanna get into a Ben Affleck career synopsis, but we all know what happened. Affleck has been a pretty good actor all this time, but countless poor decision after poor decision left him in lackluster film after lackluster film, that did no justice to his talents as an actor. Let’s say an epiphany happened, he hooked up with the godly Jennifer Garner, had a couple kids and his life and career were put into perspective. I know since he co-wrote Good Will Hunting, that directing was always in his wheelhouse, but after a less than critically popular career, he went to that well sooner than he may have thought. No doubt directing has resurrected his career, and has done justice to his acting career, where, hey! Everyone can finally see how truly great of an actor Affleck is, and boy, ain’t he a good director? I’m looking forward to the next 40-some odd years with Affleck behind the camera, it should be fun.
Affleck the director is more confident in Argo, not like he hasn’t been before, but now it’s like “Fuck, I’ve made some great films, I’m a good director, let’s go all out”. Argo is Affleck’s first “period” film and he handles it with grace and style that stays in the realm stylistically of his previous films, but also spreads his wings within the kinds of films he can tackle. Argo involves the rescue of six hostages taking cover under the Canadian ambassador in Iran, and the CIA’s attempts to free them using the cover of a fake film crew to extract them. Affleck smartly knows how to capture this period of the 70s, by splicing in real-life footage in the beginning, copying exact shots from the real-life event, and making the film stock really grainy and worn to give that old feel of a 30-year past event. The look of the film is nailed down and so precise, that you don’t get that laughable “70s stock clothing and stereotypes” that take you out of the picture, Affleck reveals it carefully and accurately to put you in the mood.
I briefly talked about Afflecks’ acting above and as in The Town, his acting isn’t something that brings down the film, or even holds it at an even keel, but one which elevates the film due to Affleck’s ability to faithfully convey honesty and truth across his face and his ability as an actor. One gets wary after he keeps putting himself in his own films, but as he gets more experienced and disconnected from himself as an actor it’ll fade away, but for the time being his acting does no disservice to his talents as a director. In fact, this whole film is filled with great acting, especially by Bryan Cranston, even in a small relatively small role. I know ever since Breaking Bad it’s been cliché to say how great of an actor Cranston is, but only in a couple scenes he delivers such integrity and fidelity that it’s impossible not to talk about it.
Not to spoil things, but Affleck (by the way, I’m using actor names over character names because that’s how I goddamn roll, okay?) tells his superior, Cranston, that he’s going through with the mission after the CIA told him it was shut down, and Cranston needs to make sure their plane tickets are available. Fearing for Affleck’s absolute safety, Cranston goes on a goddamn warpath making sure these tickets will show up in Iran for their safe passage. In other films the character would go crazy, overact and seem laughable for how high-strung they are in achieving their goal. Cranston does go manic, but also focused, it’s never laughable or cheesy, he straddles that line where he’s brash and foreword without seeming obnoxious or dumb, you understand the seriousness of his threats to “higher-ups” and every moment sinks in rather than played for an embarrassed type of laughs in his activity.
As I go on this doesn’t feel like the most succinct or focused review of the film, which put most plainly I really liked, but didn’t love. Knowing the basis of the story beforehand, the climax is something that works for the most part, there’s tension there, but isn’t the absolute pinnacle of everything that you might expect. It’s not some kind of guns drawn/full out action scene that’s like a big culmination. Sure, you don’t need an action scene with guns or violence to make your climax work, but it was little bit of a letdown with just a tense phone call and the take-off of a plane that seemed pretty certain. Nitpicks all around, but it was all well done, and staying true to the story means that it’s no slam-bang ending or shocking climax, but that’s still all well and good as long as it’s done well and performed to its absolute peak, which this was.
Make no question, Ben Affleck is a goddamn great director. Even though he’s a pretty good actor, I hope he just forgoes that and focuses all his energy on directing. Like, I mean, c’,mon buddy, we all love you, but we don’t need to see your face in like every movie you make, have faith in your talents behind the scenes. Argo is a great film, and one which I’m sure will be up for plenty of Academy Awards. Who knew the goddamn star of Daredevil would be directing some of the best films of our time, less than a decade later?