Sorry, but I can't help being jealous of Ben Affleck. His new film, Argo, is a huge success; he's handsome, rich and is married to the lovely and talented Jennifer Garner. He has an Oscar on the mantel for writing Good Will Hunting and is reportedly a philanthropist with a big heart and checkbook. What's wrong with this picture?
If the picture in question is Argo — actor/director Affleck's latest effort, the answer is absolutely nothing! The story of six Americans hiding out in Iran during the hostage crisis moves swiftly and surely for its 120-minute length, during which one may be excused for biting one's fingernails. It is as tense as a piano-wire from beginning to end.
And while some critics have taken exception to the film's loose relationship with historical fact, poetic license is used to good effect to heighten the dramatic tension, especially in the third act. For those of you unaware of the story's lineage, it involves a phony film project meant to trick Iranian officials into letting a half-dozen Americans fly out of the country (posing as a Canadian film outfit) while the other 66 hostages languished for 444 days in captivity.
Much sport is made of Hollywood duplicity and cynicism as the brilliant ruse is being set up by CIA agent Antonio J. Mendez, and Alan Arkin and John Goodman serve as tonic comic relief to the often harrowing sequences in Tehran. Goodman plays real-life hero John Chambers, an Oscar-winning makeup wizard known for his work on Planet of the Apes. It is said his crucial involvement stemmed from patriotic fervor alone.
By comparison, Affleck's portrayal of agent Mendez is a study in gray and black moods. He is all about business, and is provided with a broken-family back-story meant to humanize him a tad, but which suspiciously smells of emotional gimmickry from the get-go. That and the amped-up (and unhistorical) chase-scene finish just slightly mar what amounts to a successful, old-school caper film with crowd-pleasing 007 overtones. The audience I saw it with broke into applause at the finish. Go USA!