Ben Affleck comes into his own with ‘Argo’

Affleck and his awesome ’70s shag star in “Argo.”

In this economy, it’s hard to change career paths. One of the better options for advancement would be to stick with what you know, while gradually dipping your toes into something new. Take Ben Affleck, for example. With his last two directorial efforts, he’s been building his résumé as a director, and with “Argo” it’s clear that he’s ready to do the job full-time.

With each of his films, he’s stepped further outside his comfort zone: With 2009′s “Gone Baby Gone” he stayed behind the camera, putting his brother Casey Affleck in the lead. With “The Town” he did double duty as lead and director. And with this film, he moves beyond his native environs of Boston to take on a complex international incident in the Middle East.

The title “Argo” refers to science fiction film that was never intended to be made. In the midst of the Iranian hostage crisis that started in 1979, six Americans found refuge in the Canadian Ambassador’s home. As an “ex-filtration” specialist for the CIA, Tony Mendez (Affleck) is charged with hatching a plan to get them out. He concocts a plot to have the six pose as Canadian location scouts for said film, employing a Hollywood makeup artist (John Goodman) and director (Alan Arkin) to create a believable foundation for the story he hopes to sell to Iranian border police.

Affleck has a steady hand — the comic moments are well-timed, the tension is ratcheted up at an intuitive pace and he has a Scorsese-like command of a soundtrack. He’s also proven to be skilled at casting — especially in selecting Alan Arkin, who delivers some hilariously withering lines in a way that only he can pull off.

All in all, if one day Ben Affleck decides that acting isn’t for him anymore, he’s got a solid backup plan. His talent for filmmaking may after all eclipse the skills that first made him famous.

If you go
   
‘Argo’
Director: Ben Affleck
Cast: Ben Affleck, Bryan Cranston, Alan Arkin, John Goodman
Rating: R
Grade: 4/5


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