â â â â
YOU wouldn't think there was much humour to be found in a film which chronicles a true story about the Iran hostage crisis, but you know what?
You'd be wrong. Actor/director Ben Affleck has turned out one of the best comedy-thrillers of the year, in quite amazing style, following on from his previous successes with Gone Baby Gone and The Town.
In November 1979, 52 Americans were taken hostage after the storming of the US embassy in Tehran by Iranian militants.
Six of them managed to escape and find refuge in the home of a brave Canadian ambassador, who hid them for weeks, while a plan was hatched back in Washington, to bring them home.
This true life story remained untold for many years, and its facts sound more like a fictional Hollywood screenplay, than documented evidence, but true it is, and it is a credit to Affleck, and producer George Clooney, that the facts don't constrain the boundaries of a film which will thrill, entertain and educate, while delivering all the ingredients which make this a hot contender for Oscar glory.
Affleck plays CIA specialist Tony Mendez, who comes up with a scheme to extract the hostages by pretending they are a Canadian film crew, shooting a sci-fi movie called Argo.
Great lengths are gone to, to give this cover story credibility, including enlisting the help of Hollywood to make it seem like this is an actual film in the making.
Mendez seeks out the help of a Hollywood producer (Alan Arkin) and a make-up specialist (John Goodman) to spin the yarn, and a plan is hatched which results in a movie full of action and nail biting tension.
But why this works so well, is that is impregnated by a humour, verging on satire, which lifts it out of its expected genre and shows Hollywood is often at its best when it sees the funny side of itself.
If it wasn't for the over the top, solemn ending which pulls the film back to reminding us that this is, after all a serious subject, you could be excused for thinking you were watching a full blown comedy.
Affleck's Mendez is surprisingly underwritten and the result is a little stereotypical, rather than the complex character which could have been portrayed — this is one instance when you suspect it might not have been the best idea to have the director in the leading role, and that Affleck's limitations as an actor (although he is getting better), hinder rather than enrich.
But as a director, he is storming the screen with vibrant images and great story telling ability.
His use of intercut images and attention to detail are clearly visible, tension enhancing tools, which give this film an undeniable edge.
The opening and closing action scenes, including the storming of the embassy, are brilliantly shot and provide plenty of thrills and spills which will hook you from the start.
The scene cutting back and forth from Iran to Washington helps to crank up the tension and there is nice use of the documentary style footage for the actual raid on the embassy which results in the capture of the hostages.
Also included is a quick explanation of the historical background, and the reasons for the Iranian revolution.
But overall this is a complex, fast-paced, thriller, imbedded with irony and satire and directed with style and a smart brain by Affleck, who is quickly proving himself to be one of Hollywood's hottest directors.