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Reviewer: Alexander Penn

Director: Ben Affleck

Stars: Ben Affleck, Bryan Cranston and John Goodman

Released: 7th November 2012 (UK)

Certificate: 15

Judging by The Town and Gone Baby Gone, Ben Affleck’s proving to be one of Hollywood’s most surprising break-away hits. With a tight grasp on the camera and a sharp scribing skill, he knows how to patch together a solid film, even if he persists to plaster his face all over it.

He still pulls off that nauseating heart-throb thing that tails back to his equally nauseating role in Michael Bay’s scab ‘Pearl Harbor’. But. he’s clearly got the movie-making spark,  he just needs to keep his lovely face behind the camera. In Argo, he’s kept it behind a bushy beard, which is a good start.

This time he’s gone far away from his Boston stomping ground , instead going somewhere a little rawer: Early 80s Iran. Bathed in smoke and fire, the flick follows the CIA’s collaboration with Canada to rescue American embassy personnel from some revolutionary cross-fire, or the Iranian Hostage Crisis.

Naturally, Big Ben plays Tony Mendez, a smoky  CIA agent tasked to collect the captives. He thinks up an oddball undercover plot, looking to go in as a film-maker set-scouting for  a fake film called ‘Argo’. With the help of his amusing pals in Hollywood (John Goodman et al), he contrives a hefty back-log of material to soup up the cover and fool Iranian customs.

While I’m aware this is based on a true story, the premise is great and nicely realised. The terror and urgency of the situation hits you to the core, even if we do get some comic relief along the way to put a bit of wield in motion. The  grind of it all becomes unbearable, and Affleck uses all the techniques in the tool-box to lead us along a path of classic cinematic suspense. I just wish the main man would realise that mounting a film on pure technique and cinematographic prowess is not just adequate, it’s admirable, and what gripes me here is all the added waffle.

Instead of focusing on his own directorial flair, Affleck focuses on himself, burping out a useless strand of plot painting him as the downbeat saboteur awash with melancholy and whiskey.

No Ben, it’s not your time to stare at the stars, scratch your silly beard and loathe at how conflicted and deep you are, it’s your time to shove your great movie-making talent down the world’s throat. I often felt choked by the romantic fluff that seemed to dilute everything that made the thriller so good.

I didn’t care about his long-lost family, he lost because of the work that he’s so lost in, making him lost in conflict, work and, most importantly, loss.

No. This should have been a raw picture, resting on the dexterity behind the camera to craft something that locks you in with unyielding grip. The film plays on the viewers’ expectations, practising some serious technique, but there’s more fat to trim than even John Goodman could account for.

I don’t want to tell you the ending, but let’s just say the drive of the film, and Affleck’s perspective of what it’s about, had too much of the Bay when it should have had more of the Hitchcock.

It’s not my intention to voice why I hated the film, I actually really liked it. It’s just frustrating to see such a talent held back by waffle when, after Affleck’s 90s shit-show, we’ve clearly had our fill.

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