Argo

Ben Affleck is turning out to be one of the finest filmmakers of his generation, so much so that his Directorial efforts have trumped practically all his acting failures during the early 00’s (Can we forgive him for Gigli now?). Back when he joined forces with best friend Matt Damon in 1998 to write the script for the much loved Good Will Hunting, who knew then that we had a soon to be greatly respected and highly praised creator in out midst.

Only a few years after his commercial successes with The Town and Gone Baby Gone, Affleck returns to the director’s chair to helm and star in this winter’s Oscar bait movie Argo.

Following the real life events of the CIA’s attempt to rescue six American diplomats from Tehran during the Iran hostage crisis in the late 1970s and early 1980s, this thriller is one to watch out for come award season.

On November 4th 1979, the American Embassy in Tehran was overrun by militants in support of the Iranian revolution and in retaliation to the US’ support of the deposed Shah. In a frightening display, hostages were taken and paraded on television. When the CIA learn of six U.S diplomats who are trapped and seeking shelter with the Canadian ambassador (Victor Garber), exfiltration specialist agent Tony Mendez (Affleck) is sent in to rescue them.

Mendez plans a clever ruse by joining forces with real life make-up artist John Chambers (John Goodman), who worked on The Planet of the Apes films and also previously helped the CIA with other crafted disguises, and film producer Lester Siegel (Alan Arkin) to produce a phony film studio and rescue the trapped citizens. All the while he was also establishing the pretence of a developing sci-fi project called ‘Argo’ to the press.

In a potentially dangerous and life threatening task, he masquerades as the film’s director, enters Tehran under the pretext of location scouting for the film while really briefing the six escapees with extensive information, providing fake passports and fake identities to get home safely.

The details of this incredible mission were not released to the public until 1997 and while Mendez himself was awarded the Intelligence Star, the nature of the event meant he was not allowed to keep it until the information was made public.

While a story of this nature is naturally like catnip to the Academy Awards, full credit goes to Affleck who while acting the role of Mendez very well has assembled a strong quality cast, a brilliant screenwriter, production designer and even the perfect composer in Alexandre Desplat. In real life the six diplomats made it home safely, and in 1981 all other hostages taken were released unharmed. Argo never wains on tension, right up to the nail biting finale, so despite the conclusion of the film being common knowledge, it still takes you on a ride before you get there, sprinkled with a few little comedy touches courtesy of Arkin’s hilarious turn as Lester Siegel which provide much needed relief from all the political jargon.

A few other creative touches, including a cleverly organised opening credits sequence using hand drawn storyboard images,and interesting history information at the end of the film keep things engaging in what is a superb feature from Affleck, that serves only to leave us wanting more.

Argo is out in UK cinemas from today.