Considering he's been in over fifty films, Ben Affleck is on solid ground as an established actor. As a director however, he's still finding his feet. The fact is though, that the films he has directed – Gone Baby Gone, The Town and now this – he's already proving himself as one of those rare breed of actors who looks just as comfortable behind a camera as well as in front of one.
Unlike his acting career, Affleck appears to be willing to take more risks with the material he directs, which have all been edgy affairs. Due to it not only being set in a politically volatile period, on foreign soil, as well also being based on true events, Argo has to be considered his most ambitious directing project yet.
It's 1979, and the diplomats in the US Embassy in Tehran are definitely in the wrong place at the wrong time, as Islamic militants surround their quarters, protesting heatedly over the U.S's support for the Shah who was recently deposed in their country.
Although they have security, they are ill-equipped to deal with such an angry mob, knocking hard on their front gates. The word from back home is to destroy all sensitive documents ASAP, which they comply with. However, their position looks precarious at the very least, and as the Embassy's gates are compromised, the general feeling consensus is to get out alive.
The majority of those in the Embassy are taken hostage, but for six lucky and plucky diplomats, they manage to escape. They finally manage to find refuge, thanks to the Canadian ambassador, who takes the risk of hiding them in his own home. The problem is that the militants are not prepared to let go of the fact that they got away, so begin a search for them.
Meanwhile, back in the US, this political hot potato is causing one massive headache for the powers that be; they obviously want to get the six diplomats out, but can't agree on the best way to do it.
Then steps in Tony Mendez (Affleck); a CIA specialist brought in as a consultant to help find a satisfactory outcome. With most other straight-forward plans turned down for not being believable, Mendez comes up with his own solution, but it's far from easy.
Mendez believes the only the way to get the six diplomats out alive is to ignore the might of the army, navy and air force, and to instead recruit the help of an industry that you wouldn't necessarily expect to be of any use – the film industry. With two Hollywood big shots on board, Mendez wanted to make Argo the most important film the world would never see.
Affleck's film is made all the more remarkable by being based on a true story. But that's not to take anything away from Affleck, as he shows a great level of maturity and vision as a fledgling director.
He may well have given himself the lead role, but his character is nothing more than a catalyst for the story. He gets great support from a talented cast though, including John Goodman, Bryan Cranston and the always watchable Alan Arkin.
Where he does a great job as a director is in giving the film an authentic feel for the period – historically, culturally and politically. The film is also shot with a grainy quality to it, which despite possibly being considered gimmicky, really does help convey a particular time in history.
In a sense the film itself is a throwback to another era in film history; it's story-driven all the way, and proves that you really don't need anything else to entertain an astute audience. Unfortunately in this current climate – relying as it does on flashy, computer-generated thrills and spills – this kind of project may not be mainstream enough to attract large crowds.
The upshot is however, is that you won't find a more fascinating and compelling film this year.