Absolution for Ben Affleck: new film Argo is an Oscar contender

Oct 12, 2012

Where's the wooden actor now? Affleck wins over Hollywood with 'sensational' Iran rescue movie

Warner Bros

BEN AFFLECK has had a rough ride with film critics down the years for his acting skills. But his latest film Argo is being hailed as a solid contender for next year's Oscars.

Affleck directs and stars in the new film, which tells the true story of how the CIA rescued six US diplomats from Iran during the Shah-toppling revolution in 1979 by disguising them as a Hollywood film crew. It premiered in Washington this week and has had critics raving.

Liz Smith in the Chicago Tribune says she has rarely seen such "accomplished filmmaking” as in Affleck's "astonishing, riveting, hugely entertaining and mostly-historically accurate movie”.

The back-and-forth between "LA yuks" and very real terror in Tehran shouldn't work, says Smith, but it does. "Affleck has made a real 'movie-movie' that leaves its audience wrung out, exhilarated and misty-eyed. Bravo," she says. "Prepare for the Oscar, kid."

In the Wall Street Journal, Joe Morgenstern describes Argo as "nothing less than sensational... This political thriller has it all. If you've forgotten how gratifying a Hollywood studio film can be, this is the best good idea you could ask for."

Argo is most impressive for the "number of moods its director has casually mastered", says Kenneth Turan in the LA Times. "This is no documentary, it's a major studio motion picture, and a heck of a good one at that."

Affleck, who plays Tony Mendez, the real life CIA operative who came up with the fake movie idea, appears to have been forgiven by critics for his wooden acting in films like as Gigli and Surviving Christmas. He was nominated as worst actor of the decade at the 2009 Razzies and, as Dorothy Pomerantz says in Forbes, his career seemed to have "permanently hit the skids".

His move into directing has steadily regained him respect in Hollywood with Gone Baby Gone and The Town but Pomerantz says it is Argo that has now "secured his place in Hollywood as one of the most in-demand directors and actors".

She adds: "Affleck has smartly built himself back up in an industry not known for second chances. Expect to see his winning streak continue."

If Affleck has committed any cinematic sins in the past,Argo absolves him of them all, says Christopher Watson at ABC. "Ultimately, Argo is a bona fide, suspense-filled thriller with a terrific cast, and wow! It doesn't matter that we know the outcome. Fists will be clenched, jaws will be locked, breath will be held and hearts will palpitate, all while you sit on the edge of your seat."

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