Ben Affleck, books, currently reading, Harry Potter, J K Rowling, motherhood, Netflix, recently watched, Will Arnett

It’s Mother’s Day so I hope you all treated your mothers with something lovely. Or that your children surprised you with something wonderful. On Instagram today I’ve been celebrating my favourite literary mother: Molly Weasley. There aren’t many positive examples of motherhood in the world of Harry Potter because, quite frankly, there aren’t many of them. The main two that we experience are Molly and Narcissa Malfoy. I know Tonk’s has Teddy but she’s a mother for about half a book or something. Plus, you could argue that her decision to leave her newborn baby to go into battle was the wrong one. I realise she was fighting for the freedom of the wizarding world and it was a tough decision. However, you could argue that, having basically just given birth, she would have been distracted and perhaps not in the best frame of mind to fight. Essentially the decision to have her leave her baby was so JK Rowling had symmetry between Teddy and Harry. I hate plot points that only exist for reasons beyond the narrative itself. Anyway, this isn’t the time to start another rant about the Harry Potter author. I have a rundown to write.

Currently Reading

  • The Best of Adam Sharp by Graeme Simsion
Still enjoying this but, at the moment, it’s not quite as addictive as The Rosie Project. I’m empathising with a middle-aged man more than I ever thought possible but I’m not sure the main character is quite as easy to love as Don Tilman was (even with the aspects of Simsion’s characterisation that I disagreed with). Still, it’s a story about lost love and getting older. Those are things that every reader can relate to. Plus, it’s still super easy to read without being too simplistic. Simsion has a skill to make things palatable. 
Recently Purchased
  • There Are More Beautiful Things Than Beyonce by Morgan Parker
I am so glad that I bought this. It’s a fantastic selection of poetry that use political and pop culture references to explore what it means to be a black American woman in the 21st century. I’ve only read a handful of these poems so far but I’m already super excited. 

Recently Watched
  • Chasing Amy
After my book review of The Animators last Tuesday, I wanted to find a relevant title to review for TBT. I couldn’t think of any until I stumbled across this Kevin Smith classic on Netflix. A film about a comic book creator and questions about sexual identity. It’ll work.
  • Netflix binges: BoJack Horseman, Ricky and Morty
I finished BoJack Horseman this week and I really enjoyed it. I’m not sure it was as good as I’d been told it would be but it was enjoyable enough. The third series was nowhere near as good as the second but it was still better than the first. I have hope for a season 4. Whilst going through Netflix to find a new series to watch (I’m still putting off Iron Fist cause I’m too scared it’ll be another Luke Cage and I’ll never go back to it). I keep passing Flaked, another Will Arnett series, but it just seems like BoJack set in real life minus the horse. Is he destined to play the same part over and over again? So I decided to rewatch all of Rick and Morty and I’m so glad I did. It’s a fucking awesome show.

TBT – Chasing Amy (1997)

anniversary, Ben Affleck, films, fucking awful, fucking stupid, review, rom-com, sexist

I’ve never really been a massive fan of Kevin Smith films. When I was at university I lived with a guy who loved him and wouldn’t hear a bad word said about the director. I mean Clerks is a silly but enjoyable enough watch and I did enjoy Dogma. However, I think Smith was severely overrated. Thankfully Smith-mania really peaked in the 90s and early 2000s but it still bugs me that Clerks is so often brought into discussions about “best films ever made”.  I mean I get that guy can make films out of small budgets but that’s no reason to give him so much credit. He got lucky with one suprise hit film and has been essentially riding it’s coattails ever since. I mean all his films are on pretty much the same level. Plus, he’s very hit and miss. Now, I realise that Ben Affleck has, for most of his career, made some questionable film choices but it always makes me a bit sad that Kevin Smith features so often in talks about Afflecks greatest film roles. I think Chasing Amy is almost always listed and Dogma makes the occasional appearance. Am I just missing something? Or were people just a lot easier to please in the 90s?

Chasing Amy is considered to be Kevin Smith’s greatest films after his debut film, Clerks. It was Ben Affleck’s second time in the director’s cast after the disappointing Mallrats. Affleck plays Holden McNeil, a comic book artist who works with his friend and roommate, Banky Edwards (Jason Lee). The two co-create the popular series Bluntman and Chronic based on their associates Jay (Jason Mewes) and Silent Bob (Kevin Smith). At a comic book convention the pair are introduced to Alyssa (Joey Lauren Adams) and, after spending the evening at a bar together, Holden decides he and Alyssa have a deep connection. The only trouble is, Alyssa is a lesbian. Obviously, as this is Hollywood, that doesn’t matter for long and Alyssa enters into a romantic relationship with Holden. Until Banky uncovers some secrets from her past that she lied to Holden about. When faced with the truth about his girlfriend’s sexual history, the artist lashes out and risks losing the woman he loves.

The worst thing about Chasing Amy is that I can see what Kevin Smith was going for here. He was trying to make a film about sexual identity and how other people view it. I think he was genuinely trying to convey a meanginful and important message about a person’s past can lead them to be who they are now. Alyssa has a reputation for being a promiscuous teenager and, whilst her boyfriend cannot handle it, she is unashamed of it. She understands that it is not who she is now but realises that it was something she needed to do to get to where she is now. It should be empowering but it just kind of feels a bit off. As an audience we aren’t supposed to agree with Holden’s attitude but the positive message is so wrapped up in awful stereotypes and homophobic jokes that you can’t take it seriously.

The relationship between Holden and Alyssa comes out of the fact that he has very little idea or respect for the concept of lesbian sex. He doesn’t think that anything other than heterosexual sex really counts so, in this respect, he see her as a pure, untouched being. Until he finds out that she has been touched by more than her fair share of dudes. It is then that he starts to see her for as flawed and worries about her increased experience. Which is fine if you have a meaningful resolution where Holden realises he’s an ass, apologies to Alyssa and they move beyond it. That doesn’t happen. Holden realises he’s an ass and then becomes an even bigger ass to compensate. There is never a point where he accept responsibility and accepts that Alyssa’s past is her business. Aside from her one speech towards the end of the film, this is more about Holden’s reaction to events. It’s about how sad the end of the relationship makes him. He broods on his own whilst Alyssa goes off with the first chick she can find. The ending doesn’t empower her; it just confirms everything that Holden was saying about her.

I’ve not seen Chasing Amy for a really long time so it was weird going back to it now that it’s 20 years old. I’m one of those people that still feel like the 90s was only 10 years ago so this revelation alone was enough to give me the willies. Then you have the representation of sexuality and opinions on display, which just make me feel uneasy now. The 90s was a long time ago and gender politics and sexual identity have come a long way since then. Watching this in 2017 is how I imagine it was in for people in the 90s to rewatch all those racist and sexist sitcoms from the 70s. It’s funny, sure, but the general message is a little bit worrying. It feels like the most sensitive and kind-hearted film that Kevin Smith is ever likely to make but there is still so much about this film that just doesn’t carry over to 2017. This bro-humour is at odds with the messages he is trying to convey and the half-hearted attempt to turn Banky and Holden’s homosocial relationship into an awkward homosexual one. It just doesn’t work and Lee and Affleck are both clearly uncomfortable with the idea. Ultimately, there was a time and a place for Kevin Smith’s film and that time just isn’t now. I’m glad he’s not really a thing anymore.

Tuesday’s Reviews – Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice

Amy Adams, Batman, Ben Affleck, comic book, DC, films, fucking awful, fucking stupid, Jesse Eisenberg, meh, review, superhero, Superman, waste of time, Zack Snyder

I really don’t want to write this review. I’ve sat with it open ever since I got home from work and I’ve not managed to come up with anything. If I’m honest, I never actually wanted to watch this fucking film. I mean Man of Steel was just dreadful and proved that Zac Snyder really should have called it quits on comic book movies after Watchmen was only hated by a handful of people. Those of you who were around at the time of my review of the first of Snyder’s Superman films will remember that, aside from it being badly written and really fucking long, it wasn’t exactly complimentary. I just didn’t get Snyder’s vision for the most popular alien in the DCEU. Still, those photos of Ben Affleck looking super buff got me interested and I finally decided it was time to watch it. I was a big fan of the Batffleck before watching this film so it would be just like Snyder to fuck that up for me too. I decided it was right to watch the Ultimate Edition and, after a gruelling day at work, I sat down for a gruelling 3 hours of muted tones, smack you in the face symbolism, and terrible parts for women. Classic Snyds.

So Batman vs Superman was one of the most anticipated films of 2016 because it would show the first movie meeting of DC’s two biggest male superheroes. It promised the fight of comic book geeks’ fantasies and would pit the square jaw of Henry Cavill against the rockhard abs of Ben Affleck. Plus, it would introduce the world to Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman, Jason Momoa’s Aquaman, Ezra Miller’s The Flash, and Ray Fisher’s Cyborg. After all, Batman vs Superman was just the warm up to next years Justice League movie. Kind of like Captain America and Thor were just whetting the audiences’ appetites before The Avengers came out… but with added good guy fighting. As long as the two titans both got into some sort of homoerotic penis comparison using their fists. Forget a good narrative or sensible structure, that’s what the fanboys really want.
Aside from giving us something in the way of the fight the title offers, there isn’t that much to celebrate in Batman vs Superman. The little there is in the way of story is all over the fucking place and is stitched together so weirdly is difficult to keep up. After all, pesky things like plot and character development only get in the way of large men fucking shit up. This is the kind of film where the ‘wakes up panting and realising it was a dream” thing isn’t a massive Hollywood cliché but a handy-dandy way to get out of a tricky narrative bind. Really it feels like Snyder filmed the fight scenes and then realised he needed someway to glue them together and hastily put some shit together.
One of my favourite reviews for this film described it as “a grown man whacking two dolls together”, which it essentially is. This is Zac Snyder acting out the games he played with his action figures as a child but with a fucking huge budget, special effects, and some crazily beefed men to help him. It’s action porn for those creepy little fanboys who left this film feeling that Gal Gadot’s outfit just wasn’t revealing enough. There is so much wanton destruction here that it leaves little room for actual film stuff. There is no attempt to create a coherent story or develop characters. Everyone is either dark and brooding, evil and brooding, or happy yet brooding. There are so many needless plot twists here that Snyder quickly loses control of the strands and just ties bits together whenever he regains his grasp. The editing does little to help with the confusion and the endless time jumps, flashbacks/forwards, and dream sequences are handled incredibly badly.
Batman vs Superman doesn’t even have the good sense to have a good sense of humour about itself. It’s entirely humourless and any attempts at comedy fall flat and stick out like a sore thumb. It just feels wrong and completely out-of-place: like making jokes at a funeral. This is perhaps the most serious blockbuster about such a stupid topic that has ever existed. You wouldn’t have thought it possible after the dour Man of Steel but Snyder has upped the darkness. By this, of course, I mean he’s got rid of the lighting and literally made everything darker. There is plenty of shadows to show you that evil shit is going down and more than enough close-ups and shaky cam to try to amp up the excitement. Then there’s the endless fucking lens flares. What is this? A fucking JJ Abrams Star Trek movie? One of the notes I wrote whilst watching this just reads “how can something be both dark and light at the same time?” because there is so much light in such a lightless environment. It’s all just ridiculous. This is a film that is all about the visual that it just feels silly. It’s like people who are too into fashion: they’re so much about style over substance that you just can’t take them seriously anymore.
There are a couple of things to love here: Ben Affleck is as good as I’d hoped as Bruce Wayne and I can’t wait to see his solo effort. I don’t think we really needed ANOTHER origin story but this was essentially Batman’s film. Not the greatest thing in a Superman flick but I’ll never complain about more Batffleck. Joining Ben on my list of good things about Dawn of Justice is Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman. She’s a great addition to the cast even though she really didn’t get any chance to tell her story. Then again, in this environment, maybe that actually helped her. Finally, there’s Jeremy Irons as Alfred. This Alfred isn’t the stuffy, wise butler we’re used to but is a hands on kind of guy. He’ll chop your wood, fix you gadgets, and listen in on your secret conversations. I think this could be a great partnership.
And that’s it. The only good things I can think of about this film. Lois Lane (Amy Adams) and, let’s face it, every other woman barely get a look in and exist only to get themselves into a position they need saving from. Lex Luthor is just every other Jesse Eisenberg character we’ve ever seen but with access to a spaceship. The brief glimpses of the other member of the Justice League are just absurd and completely unnecessary from anything but a marketing point of view.  The script is awful: I’m still cringing over Holly Hunter’s peach tea speech. Too much terrible and unsubtle symbolism. Too many failed attempts at religious metaphors. And just too many twists to keep dragging things out. I’m so angry that I ever wasted my time on this shit. It should have been amazing. It could have been fun. I mean imagine what could have happened if these characters were in the MCU. It would have been unbelievable. Yes, it would have ended with something crashing to Earth at the end but it would have been wonderful. Dawn of Justice had so much potential but it just fucked us all. Zac Snyder basically pissed all over our dreams and then probably cut to us waking up panting and sweating.

Batman v Superman: Battle of Who Could Care Less

Amy Adams, Ben Affleck, comic book, fucking awful, reboot, Superman, trailer, Zack Snyder
So earlier this month nerds from all over the world were flocking to San Diego Comic Con. Amidst all the usual cosplay and fangirling, the world was introduced to a whole host of new trailers to get excited about. A lot of them were exciting, like Suicide Squad which completely turned me around about the whole thing. Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn? Fuck yes Jared Leto’s joker? Holy shit! Even Will Smith doesn’t seem like too abysmal. So yeah, it turns out I’m actually excited about what DC has to offer in a world dominated by Marvel films. Which, considering how I felt after Man of Steel really fucking shocked me. Of course, even after the super popular Batman v Superman panel that sent everyone crazy, I’m still not over the bitterness that surrounded my soul after watching Zack Snyder fuck with Superman. However, after I first saw the trailer I was weirdly excited about it. There are parts that look so good but… I hate Zack Snyder. I really don’t know what to think.

As you may recall, I was disappointed by Man of Steel. It amounted to little more than just destruction porn with Snyder’s limited saturation. It wasted it’s major villain without giving him anything to do. Russell Crowe was fucking awful. Whilst depicting one of the comic book world’s power couples, Lois and Clark have no fucking chemistry. And really, due to the fact that Superman’s origin has been done to death at this point, the narrative was just super uninspiring. Plus, Zack Snyder is just a one trick pony. He’s fucked up so many things at this point I don’t understand why he keeps being giving so many second chances.
So, my unwavering annoyance with Man of Steelhas meant that every time my idiot colleague keeps trying to get me excited about Batman v SupermanI just sort of fob him off with a non-committal nod. I wasn’t looking forward to a sequel after I saw it and I wasn’t looking forward to it when the teaser trailer came out. I mean whoever was paid to write “Tell me, do you bleed? You will” is the jammiest shit on the planet. If the script follows that line then we’re all fucking doomed. I’m still cringing now.
So, by April 2015 I was still resolute in my decision to not give a shit about this film. Then Comic Con happened. I didn’t pay much attention to anything that was said during the film’s panel but I had to give the newest trailer a watch. To my absolute horror, I was on the edge of my seat the entire fucking time. I was in a horrible position when I thought I’d have to eat my words and write an open apology to Zack Snyder for ever doubting him.
Then I watched it again… and again… and again. Just to check that it hadn’t been a fluke. I’ll be honest, the initial wave of euphoria had passed but there are some things about this film that genuinely excited me. Above all else, Batfleck is as fucking awesome as I always suspected that he would be. I love Ben Affleck more and more each year and his Batman looks absolutely amazing. Not only is he fucking huge nowadays but he looks more than comfortable in both the Bruce Wayne and Dark Knight role. I just hope Snyder gives him room to work.
So that’s one major plus point. The second: Jeremy Irons. Michael Caine’s Alfred was perhaps the most perfect imagining of Bruce Wayne’s loyal butler you could have asked for. I honestly didn’t think anyone could replace him. However, Jeremy Irons’ Alfred looks different; less passive and much more vocal. I’m always quite excited to see what Jeremy Irons has to offer and, since the trailer, I’m even more excited to see what he can do with such a well-known character. It could be the greatest thing since Michael Caine uttered the words “some men just want to watch the world burn”.
Then it became trickier to find things I was truly excited about. For every shot of Batfleck you are forced to suffer through Amy Adams spouting some awful cliché like “this means something, it’s all some people have, it all that gives them hope.” Urgh. She’s so much better than this shit. However, there are the usual tempting glimpses to distract you from that, of course: Robin’s old suit with the Joker’s scrawled message of doom on it, an underwater Aquaman reference, “You let your family die”, and that shot lifted straight from The Dark Knight Returns‘s cover. I even like the self-aware plot line concerning the consequences of Superman’s fight with Zod. Snyder’s hitting back at the critics of his last film and saying ‘I get it. They’re needs to be consequences.’ It’s just a little bit pointless when Batman and Superman are clearly going to face off in an equally if not more destructive showdown. I’m not saying that isn’t enough there to whet anyone’s appetite but how good is it actually going to be?
The trailer is, more than anything, exhausting. There is so much going on that doesn’t seem to fit naturally into the main narrative strand. We see Wonder Woman in the trailer and we know the other members of the Justice League are going to introduced in some form here. You, therefore, have to ask the question, can Snyder handle that much plot? Looking at Man of Steel, I’d say no. He shrugged off the narrative to make way for more explosions the first time round so giving him more storyline to fit in and more strands to pick up just seems to be asking for trouble. Either the film will be longer than Peter Jackson’s latest outputs or it just won’t make fucking sense.
To be honest, Snyder has always seemed like the wrong choice for these films. I’m not saying he’s awful. 300 was obviously good and Watchmenis the best adaptation of Alan Moore’s graphic novel that we are likely to get. However, he doesn’t have a light enough touch or enough of an interest in the finer details to do the material justice. He’s a blow shit up in front of some green screen kind of guy.
Christopher Nolan has fucking ruined comic book movies for us now. He was a talented director that made comic book movies good films. You can’t just be heavy handed anymore. People give a shit these days. Considering Marvel have had such phenomenal success with their directorial choices lately, you would have thought Warner Bros. could have copied their strategy and gone off the beaten track for this one. But no, Zack Snyder is a bankable director. So he’s the guy we’ve got.
To answer the original quandary of this post, the Batman v Superman trailer didn’t get me excited about that movie. Mostly because the whole film is just a shameless trailer for the Justice League movie. What it did succeed in doing was getting me super pumped up for more Batfleck. Seriously, Warner Bros. just need to admit that Superman has been a no go area after Christopher Reeve’s era. What we want is more Batman, more Affleck and less fucking Snyder.

Gone Girl (2014)

Ben Affleck, books, crazy, David Fincher, review
(As I seem to be one of the only people on the planet not to have read Gillian Flynn’s bestselling novel spoilers probably won’t be an issue. On the other hand, if you’re part of my team this may be verging on the dangerous ground.)

As I’ll no doubt have mentioned by now (after all, deep down I’m still annoyingly Indie at heart), I never finished reading Gone Girl. I can’t remember how far into the book I actually got but it was well before the ‘big twist’. I just couldn’t keep going with the writing and I thought it was painfully obvious where Gillian Flynn was going. Having learnt about the plot, it turns out my predictions were pretty accurate so I don’t really regret my decision to stop. Life’s too short for that shit. If my undergraduate dissertation had been as signposted as Flynn’s bestseller, my tutor would have fucking loved me. However, I have a certain amount of faith in David Fincher and if anyone could make me like this story it was likely to be him. All I needed to do was convince my friend to go with me. Thankfully I had a secret weapon up my sleeve: the promise of Affleck penis.

Gone Girllooks to dissect the institute of marriage in the form of a police investigation. The dual perspectives of married life, neither of which are exactly trustworthy, play out side-by-side in a very public arena. On the morning of his fifth wedding anniversary Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck) comes home to find his home in disarray and his wife (Rosamund Pike) nowhere to be seen. The police arrive and Nick is quickly swept up in the desperate search for his spouse.
As a wild media circus descends on the quiet Missouri town, Nick’s in-laws arrive and quickly distract themselves with TV appeals and search campaigns. Unlike Amy’s parents, Nick isn’t comfortable in front of the probing news cameras and, after some unfortunate appearances and untimely smiles, he finds himself in the dangerous position of main suspect. Lies are quickly brought to the forefront and a hidden past is revealed. But what really happened to Amy?
I saw the film over a week ago now and have struggled to put my reaction into words. Quite frankly, I don’t really give a shit. Gone Girl isn’t as clever or original as it thinks it is. It’s a generic piece of trash that goes batshit crazy in the final act in order to stand out. Reviews will tell you that the plot is thrilling and intense but, a few supporting characters aside, the whole thing just feels very pedestrian.
No matter how many good things I heard about Gone Girl I just couldn’t get excited about it. Nothing to do with David Fincher because, let’s be honest, on paper Gillian Flynn’s smash hit novel was the perfect book for the director to adapt and, I have to admit, he does a damn good job. By no means is it his best film but it’s still a well-made piece of cinema. No matter where you stand on the book, you can’t deny the film looks bloody good.
It’s incredibly sleek with its muted colours and use of light and dark throughout. Jeff Cronenweth, a long-time collaborator of Fincher, has done an outstanding job with the cinematography that perfectly compliments the mood of Flynn’s thriller. Just look at the contrast between the lighting and the action on screen towards the end of the film where spoiler spoilers spoiler.It’s a beautiful yet awful spectacle that will stay with you long after the credits roll.
Thanks to the work of Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, Gone Girlalso boasts a fantastic soundtrack. The pair’s score is haunting and provides the perfect accompaniment to the dramatic tension unfolding on screen. I refer you back to that key scene once again where the musical score just adds to the craziness taking place before your eyes. It’s fucking awesome.
Fincher and Flynn, who took up the task of turning her book into a screenplay, do a pretty good job with the plot. The emphasis on the first half of the film is on the media mob that are quick to sniff out a juicy story. Gone Girlbecomes a social commentary, albeit tied up within a ludicrous, trashy mystery. This is the most interesting aspect of the narrative and clearly speaks most to Fincher. A great deal of time is given over to the media reaction and Missi Pyle is excellent as the toxic host of a cable TV show.
This part of the film was so good that its almost a shame that we’ve to get back to the business of finishing Nick and Amy’s story. I’ve recently read a review that called for Fincher to re-purpose the plot and retell is from the perspective of the online and television coverage of the search. Now that is a film I’d happily sit through.
Gone Girlis, first and foremost, about perspectives and storytelling. The ways in which Nick and Amy present their marriage to themselves and the outside world; the way the media presents the pair; and the way Nick and co cope in the spotlight. One of the finest sequences in the film comes from Tyler Perry’s inscrutable lawyer, Tanner Bolt, as he coaches Nick on how to act during an upcoming interview.
Weirdly, Perry is a wonderful addition to the cast. He brings a great sense of arrogance and a touch of humour to this “patron saint of wife killers”. Every move he makes is superb and Bolt ends up being one of the biggest stars in the entire production. What a better movie it would have been had Bolt been the one married to Amy. Also deserving more more time in the spotlight are Carrie Coon as Nick’s twin sister Margo and Kim Dickens as Detective Rhonda Boney. Both provide a human and emotional counterpoint to Affleck and Pike’s cold couple.
To be honest, the reviews are correct and there is a lot to like about Gone Girl. In David Fincher’s hands the plot flourishes in places. However, no matter what happens I can’t deny that no amount of polishing can turn trash into anything other than trash. I just don’t think I’ll ever be able to get on board with Flynn’s story or her hastily written main characters. Take Amy: I’m all for Flynn’s desire to explore the darker side of femininity. It’s just not going to work with a character as exaggerated and hyperbolic as this. She is an extreme that is given no time to develop and there is no attempt, at least within the film, to explore the deeper problems on show here. For a film that starts us down an important path to social and media critique, the two main characters just feel forgettable and extremely overcooked.

Argo (2012)

Ben Affleck, drama, John Goodman, review
I’ve never really seen the point of Ben Affleck as an actor. For a considerable amount of time he was nothing more than the friend of the much more talented Matt Damon. Whilst he is not always awful but he was, more often than not, forgettable. However, like Clint Eastwood and George Clooney, Affleck has made a much more noticeable step into the world of directing. Gaining critical acclaim for his previous efforts Gone Baby Gone and The Town, Affleck now tackles Chris Terrio’s script based on a strange but true part of American and Canadian history. For his third time in the director’s chair, Ben Affleck moves away from the familiarity of his much loved Boston to tackle the wider world and bigger issues.

Declaring itself to be ‘based on real events’, Argo is set during the Iran hostage crisis that took place from 1979 to 1981. It opens with a brief but vital introduction to the history of the West’s involvement in Iran presented rather sleekly in the style of a graphic novel. Yes, this segment may be criticised for being simplistic and reductive but sets about to remind the audience that Western powers helped to establish the monarchy in Iran. An issue that led to the Islamic revolution that gave vent to anti-American feeling within the population. When Iranian militants stormed the U.S Embassy in November 1979 and took 52 American citizens hostage, six workers managed to escape undetected. Taking refuge at the home of the Canadian Ambassador Ken Taylor (Victor Garber) they were forced to lay low for two months for fear of being captured.

With both the American and Canadian governments under pressure to keep all those involved safe, there followed a frantic race to think up a plan that would safely lead the diplomats out of Tehran and back home. Considered to be the best option available, CIA exfiltration expert Tony Mendez, along with some key players, turns to Hollywood to provide an alibi for the group’s presence. They are to be provided with Canadian passports and passed off as part of a film crew scouting for locations to shoot their Star Wars-esque sci-fi movie. It’s an absurd plan but it’s just crazy enough to work.

Affleck has a knack for telling a story. He ensures that the action is always moving forwards but never fails to keep everything feeling realistic enough. Aided by some beautiful work by cinematographer Rodrigo Prieto and some propulsive editing, the plot advances relentlessly without any evidence of unnecessary material. Argo is a mature, intelligent and efficient film. It does what it needs to do in as simple a manner as it is able. Affleck is not just looking back to the 1970s but emulating them. From his use of the old Warner Brothers logo to the grainy look of the entire thing, the director is creating his own brand of 70s suspense film.

With an appropriately beardy look, Affleck places himself in the role of sober 70s action hero and does so remarkably well. I’ve seen a fair amount of criticism about Affleck’s portrayal of Mendez but I have to disagree. His performance is very thoughtful and professional but there is a certain amount of likeability beneath all that stocism. Detached though it may seem I have to argue that Affleck’s portrayal of the ‘exfil expert’ is perfectly in keeping with the plot. The nature of the story being told means that Mendez shouldn’t be in your face and overly dramatic. He is a CIA agent given the huge task of sneaking six people out of a very volatile setting. This isn’t Mendez’s story but the story that comes out of his idea.

He surrounds himself with a cast of great performers, not all of whom are big Hollywood names, and ensures that their performances are reined in enough to let the narrative speak for itself. Non of the characters are given a great amount of depth but they are all believable thanks to some fantastic performances. Everyone is perfectly cast and offer some amazing performances: Bryan Cranston as Mendez’s boss; Victor Garber as the Canadian ambassador; and Tate Donovan, Clea DuVall, Scoot McNairy, Rory Cochrane, Christopher Denham and Kerry Bishe as the six hostages. They’re all absolutely on point.

Of course, the stand-out comic performances come from John Goodman as Oscar winning make-up artist John Chambers and Alan Arkin as composite character Lester Siegel. Both actors give great performances with Arkin, in particular, providing the brunt of the humour. It is during the Hollywood scenes that Affleck introduces his audience to his sub-theme, a droll inside look at Hollywood. The pair repeatedly take shots at the inherent egomania and self-denial of the movie business. However, it is all done with an obvious amount of affection and the importance of Hollywood in the rescue of innocent lives can hardly be forgotten.
As a director, Affleck does a brilliant job of combining the comedic and dramatic elements of the narrative. Thanks also to the superb editing, courtesy of William Goldenberg, the film moves majestically between moments of drama and humour in this horrendously far-fetched yet true story. There are some fantastic moments where the action cuts back and forth between the staged reading of the fake film, the Iranians in control of the embassy, and the tense atmosphere within the Canadian ambassador’s household. These potentially jarring elements come together harmoniously. The narrative glides smoothly towards the inevitably tense climax.

It’s safe to assume that nearly all of the audience know the outcome of the story before the opening credits but Affleck still manages to bring a certain amount of tension to the plot. Though we must not forget that this is still Hollywood so the houseguests find themselves in more moments of heart-stopping drama than was actually the case. The final stage of the escape plan is wrought with all kinds of danger with several near misses and the obligatory chase scenes. However, that does not mean that Argo is not an intelligent film. Yes, the plot is sensationalised and there has been a fair amount of artistic license taken but, more importantly, the true bravery and drama remains.

There has also been a great deal of criticism regarding the historical accuracy of Affleck’s film. There has been much said about the increased importance of the American government in the plan and the consequent lessening of the Canadian role. Terrio’s script attempts to simplify the matters and does so by removing evidence of the aid given to the six by the English and Australian ambassadors. To many, Argo has been viewed as nationalist propganda intended to inflate America’s already large ego. Although, that is ignoring the fact that, whilst Ken Taylor’s role has been minimised here, Affleck has the greatest respect for the amount of work the Candian government did in helping get the six Americans out of danger. I also don’t think the ending is that full of pro-America feeling and Affleck is always keen to remind us of America’s role in starting the revolution. The ending has a great sense of general joyous celebration that goes hand-in-hand with a successful operation rather than drowning the audience in an atmosphere of “America, FUCK YEAH!” I could understand people getting angry if Affleck and Terrio had set out to create a documentary about that period but this is a film. Argo does wish to inform, that cannot be denied, but it is also intended to entertain. If there’s one thing we can learn from Quentin Tarantino, it’s that anyone who uses Hollywood films as historical sources probably doesn’t deserve to know the truth.