Ben Affleck Saves Americans, and His Career, in Argo!!!

Bitter, Bitter Balcony, Movie Review, Argo 2012Chris TerrioBen AffleckBen Affleck, Bryan CranstonTony Mendez (book), Joshuah Bearman (article) Bitter,Bitterometer,meter Argo(2012)

“There are no second acts in American lives” quoted the legendary Jazz Age author F. Scott Fitzgerald. Perhaps, but when it comes to Hollywood, careers most certainly do. Case in point, Ben Affleck, who torched his “good will” after winning an Oscar for co-writing (some say proofreading)“Good Will Hunting” with best bro Matt Damon with frigid performances in a clutter of mediocre to worse films (“Reindeer Games,” “Forces of Nature,” “Bounce,” “Pearl Harbor,” “Paycheck,” “200 Cigarettes” and man, can this list go on!). Of course, the nail in the coffin of Ben Affleck’s first film life ended catastrophically in the hands (and many other body parts) of J.Lo in a disaster movie not even James Cameron could surmount in “Gigli.” For close to a decade, Affleck had lost credibility with audiences as a leading man, and while the occasional respectable showcase of his acting abilities (“Hollywoodland” and “Changing Lanes”) would surface, he was mostly seen, unfairly so, as a beneficiary of Damon’s coattails. But in 2007, with his strong directing debut with “Gone, Baby, Gone,” Affleck proves that Fitzgerald had underestimated in his controversial quote how much Hollywood loves their sequels, and not just in the big screen.

“Argo” is the third feature length film by Affleck, coming of the critical success of the aforementioned “Gone, Baby, Gone” and 2010’s love letter to Boston in the heist drama “The Town.” Based on the true and declassified C.IA and Canadian government supported mission to rescue American diplomats from a politically hostile Iran in 1979 and 1980, “Argo” argues how true heroism at times operates in the most inconspicuous of fashions.

Tony Mendez (Ben Affleck) is the C.I.A consultant assign to conceive a plan to extract six American diplomats from Iran, an irate nation than was reclaiming their former leader be brought back to face trial after he was given asylum by the United States. Desperate for ideas, Mendez is inspired by his son’s love for Sci-Fi and concocts a plan so absurd that it might just work! Mendez pitches that a faux film production be created, where they can use the guise of scouting exotic foreign locales for the space adventure. With the assistance of his boss Jack O’Donnell (Bryan Cranston), Mendez is able to convince renowned make-up artist John Chambers (John Goodman) and blockbuster producer Lester Siegel (Alan Arkin) to cook up “Argo,” a “Dune”-like fantasy that Mendez uses as a cover to infiltrate Iran and rescue the hostages.

“Argo” is a sort of hybrid movie that honors the great works of the auteur-lead Hollywood of the 1970’s without losing track than it has been made for a 2012 audience. Through processing, Affleck dulls the film's color palette and scratches the frames for “Argo” to look like a unrestored copy of some Sidney Lumet Classic (Affleck also uses the old red and black Warner Bros. Logo to give “Argo” the signature vintage it aspires).Affleck is an extremely efficient filmmaker cut from the Clint Eastwood “no bullshit” school of cinema. Hitting a modern audience friendly 120 minute mark on the dot, Affleck wastes no time, and no scenes, in inflating sub-plots or secondary character development. Here, we know Mendez is the guy we root for while governmental bureaucracy is really the hurdle he must overcome. While several well-placed imagery is intelligently placed throughout “Argo” to state the Western world’s influence (and arguably, power) over the Eastern world, Affleck ultimately cares, like his hero Mendez, about the mission at hand.

So, does Ben Affleck vindicate himself from a questionable resume of poor films and sub-par performances? Mostly, yes. But I do hold a couple of reservations about his revitalized career. First, I still wish he would not star in his own films. Affleck’s delivery of Mendez is acceptable, but no beard you can grow can make up for the nuance and conflict an actor that wasn't so involved in his directing could have provided. Second, as good as “Argo” is, I find that it might still be slightly overrated. I hope this is not an unfair assessment, since this film might win the Oscar this month even after Affleck got snubbed for Best Director. But like Warren Betty, Robert Redford, Kevin Costner and George Clooney, the industry tends to become too enamored by the actor turned filmmaker narrative that it might glorify a film that ends up as an afterthought. Only time will tell if “Argo” will hold water. As for Ben, "Affleck: part 2" is a marquee headliner.


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Argo2012Chris TerrioBen AffleckBen Affleck, Bryan CranstonTony Mendez (book), Joshuah Bearman (article)  Argo2012Chris TerrioBen AffleckBen Affleck, Bryan CranstonTony Mendez (book), Joshuah Bearman (article) 

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