Film Capsule: Argo

As Argo hits theaters nationwide today, the cover story – at least from a media perspective – seems to be the unexpected reinvention of Ben Affleck as a compelling, if not wholly Oscar-worthy, actor/director. The only issue being Affleck’s reinvention actually began well over half-a-decade ago – kicking off with 2007’s Gone Baby Gone, before continuing its ascent straight on through The Town, with extremely strong roles in both State of Play and The Company Men along the way.

Argo looks to continue that run by chronicling the real-life exploits of Tony Mendez – a CIA operative who led U.S. diplomats to freedom after their embassy was stormed by Islamic militants back in November of 1979.

The tale is a fascinating one, to be sure; so much so that it may cause audiences to wonder why Chris Terrio’s screenplay feels so horribly contrived. While one might argue that levity is inserted here as a necessary means of keeping the film well-balanced, the reality is the dialogue goes barreling so deep into obscurity it actually winds up detracting from an otherwise engaging film. On top of which, the suspense factor is ratcheted up to an absurd – if not insulting – degree, to the extent it’s almost begging theatergoers to question Argo‘s integrity.

On the upside, Bryan Cranston turns in a worthwhile performance, as do both Alan Arkin and John Goodman. Ben Affleck is OK in the lead role, despite that usual, slack-jawed “I-am-serious-and-don’t-call me-Shirley” thing he does. But in the end, it’s the work Affleck’s doing behind the camera that renders Argo a success – yet another worthwhile moment in Affleck’s recent string of hits; albeit the most marginal of the bunch.

(Argo opens in theaters nationwide today.)