Ben Affleck’s third movie, Argo, is his best so far. Argo is based on the true story of six Americans who escaped the hostage situation in Tehran (that begin in 1979) and hid with the Canadian ambassador. Those six people have to be flown out of Tehran, but the question is how to do that without the Iranians discovering they are Americans and not Canadians.

There are some flaws in the movie, namely the oversimplification (as Hollywood does so well) of the behind-the-scenes politics that had been going on for years to bring the whole situation to a head. Also, from what I’ve read, it seems that some of the scenes in the movie, especially toward the end, are over-dramatized to add more tension and slightly misleading.

Those flaws aside, the movie was captivating and quite thrilling. The drama, whether amped up for Hollywood or not, will certainly keep the audience’s attention. What is also fascinating is how well they captured the look of the era–the clothes, the hair, the tensions, and more importantly, the terror in the streets of Tehran. While all the hostages are eventually released, Tehran remained a dangerous place for those who wouldn’t toe the line. If you don’t believe me, read Azar Nafisi’s Reading Lolita in Tehran. But I digress.

What was most surprising to me about Argo was the humor. I wasn’t expecting a movie about hostages and secret rescue missions to be so funny, but it was. Much of the humor is a dark humor, but it rings true to how people would have reacted in such a situation. Alan Arkin and John Goodman’s Hollywood characters add a lot of the humor, although the CIA agent O’Donnell, played by Bryan Cranston, has some of the best lines.

Argo is a thrilling and entertaining movie about a frightening time in American history. Even though the story is a little doctored, it is still well worth watching. This is a movie that, while it will be good on a TV, is worth the money to watch in theaters. The large screen of a theater makes the terrifying mobs in Tehran more realistic, and it makes the Hollywood scenes more opulent in comparison. I recommend you watch this movie in the theater if you get the chance.

Ben Affleck’s Town

For some reason, I thought The Town was Ben Affleck’s directorial debut.  I was wrong.  He directed Gone Baby Gone, as well as I Killed My Lesbian Wife, Hung Her on a Meat Hook, and Now I Have a Three-Picture Deal at Disney. (Really, Affleck, really?)  The Town, however, is the first movie Affleck directed and starred in.
The premise of The Town–which is based on the novel Prince of Thieves, written by Chuck Hogan–is interesting: the leader of a squad of thieves falls for a woman who was used as a hostage during a heist.  The leader of the thieves, Doug MacRay, played by Affleck, starts following Claire Keesey (Rebecca Hall) after his best friend uses her as a hostage during a major bank robbery.  MacRay’s best friend is James Coughlin, played by Jeremy Renner.  Renner is best known for his lead role in Hurt Locker. He brings the same intensity to the role of the wild one of the bunch of thieves; the reckless, impulsive, and deathly loyal thug.
The main man after the thieves is FBI Agent Frawley, played by Jon Hamm.  Hamm brings charm to a role that seems limited since this is yet another story where the bad guys are often viewed more favorably than the good guys.  One of the main “codes of conduct” for the robbers is their rule of never cooperating with cops.  Coughlin has been in jail and didn’t crack.  MacRay seems like the weak link in the bunch.  He vacillates between a desire to change his life, and the inability or lack of courage to do so.
One of the moments that stuck out in my mind was when MacRay confronts one of the cops working with Frawley.  Apparently this cop had grown up in the same area as MacRay, Charlestown, and yet he is mocked because he became a cop and used his “inside knowledge” of the criminals in the area to send people to jail.  I must be missing something, because I thought it was good to send criminals to jail.  Silly me?
My favorite moment of the movie was when Keesey claimed, while talking to MacRay, that she would be able to identify her abductors by their voices.  MacRay says, “Are you sure?”  Oh, the irony!
I found The Town to be a little drawn out, and to cover ground already beaten smooth by previous stories.  Thieves aren’t bad guys, they’re just trying to make a living with what’s handed them.  At least there is a turn at the end of The Town.  MacRay talks about having to pay for his actions.  That saved the movie for me.