Taking a true story and running with it, Ben Affleck's latest work is a masterpiece in modern filmic storytelling...
It's hard to deny that 2012 has been something of a landmark year for the film industry, with fantastic new entries to the roster including War Horse, The Muppets, Avengers Assemble, The Dark Knight Rises and Skyfall. Well, now we can add another beautiful instalment of filmmaking to the list, this time from the hands and mind of famed star and director Ben Affleck. Based on a true story of fear, religion and persevering hope, Argo stands as a crux of cinematic storytelling in a time where so many other thrillers and blockbusters rely on special effects and star names to do the hard work, forgetting to include a narrative deeper than the kiddies' pool along the way.
The story takes place in 1980s America and Iran, as a hostage crisis forces six US embassy negotiators to take retreat in their Canadian allies' home in the latter country. Affleck plays a CIA agent determined to rescue the trapped citizens at any cost, conducting an audacious plot which will take him into the front lines of danger and ultimately test his wits and loyalties to the limit. While this premise is undoubtedly one we've seen before in fictitious contexts, Affleck's handling of this scenario is masterful, his interweaving of real-world footage of the crisis with stunningly shot setpieces brimming with emotion and tension being the component of this masterpiece that raises it above all of its competitors with ease. Each and every member of the cast appears to have been handpicked for their roles perfectly despite the lack of big names beyond the director, making every single moment of the flick a joy to watch with ne'er a dull moment in sight.
Visually, Argo rightfully derives from the artistic style of its time, even going so far as to employ a retro-version of the Warner Bros Studios logo in its opening sequence to replicate this sense of nostalgia for a simpler age of communication and broadcast. Affleck clearly knows the tools of the trade for this era, and he's not afraid to throw in a few in-jokes regarding the status of the film industry then and now along the way, though he never lets the well-placed humour detract from the constant unease of the situation at hand and the gritty unbarred realism of it all. Make no mistake, the events depicted here really did happen, and given the displayed ramifications of Iranian outburst here it's no wonder that the full story of the 'Argo' event was not even declassified until over ten years after it occurred. Like The Social Network before it, Affleck mirrors Aaron Sorkin's respect for the events he is adapting, an approach which works marvellously as a whole.
Could Argo be crowned our Film Of The Year come December, then? That remains to be seen given the sheer quality of its competitors and indeed with Life Of Pi and The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey still to come before year's end, but all the same that ambiguousness should not deter you from seeing it by any means. In fact, Argo is the greatest thriller and drama film we've seen arrive on our big-screens in 2012, a true masterpiece that will forever be remembered for its stunning recreation of one of the most endearing moments of hope and triumph over adversity in human history.