Ben Affleck makes it three for three in the directing department.
Set in 1979 during the Iranian hostage crisis, Argo follows six embassy staff members who escape from the U.S. Embassy in Iran and take refuge in the home of Canadian Ambassador Ken Taylor (Victor Garber). The Iranians who have taken over the embassy are working to verify if anyone has escaped their takeover. The Canadian Ambassador knows if he is caught harboring the six escapees; the six, himself and all inside the home will be killed. The State Department understands that this is a time sensitive issue and contacts CIA specialist Tony Mendez (Ben Affleck) to assist with an extraction process.
After shooting down various ways to get the six out of Iran, Tony brings forth an idea to set up a fake movie that wants to shoot in Iran and include the six staff members as the film crew. Tony enlists Hollywood makeup artist John Chambers (John Goodman) and producer Lester Siegel (Alan Arkin) with creating all that is needed for the fake, science fiction film: Argo.
Once set up, Tony then flies to Iran and meets up with the six staff members at Ken Taylor's home. He informs them of the plan, and with the help of his superior, Jack O'Donnell, (Bryan Cranston) Tony attempts to lead the six staff members through Iran posing as the film crew and out of Iran without being captured or killed.
Ben Affleck directs this film with a mostly solid eye, and does not often let the film meander too far from the two major plots that are going on. If there was one issue with the film, it lies with the fact that too many unnecessary characters are included. We are introduced to various characters for one scene, only to never be seen again. I understand that each character does serve a purpose, but some things could have easily been cut for the sake of time.
And speaking of the sake of time, Ben Affleck occasionally cuts back to the Iranian hostage crisis at the U.S. Embassy to focus on the hostages. As the plot is about the six staff members that escaped, it feels like Ben Affleck would occasionally lose focus of the plot about the six and want to cover the entire Iranian hostage crisis. This only occurs a few times, but each time it jarringly pulls you out of the film, even if it is only briefly.
This film could have used another run through by the editor, but overall this is an exceptional film. Ben Affleck gives the feel of a 1970's thriller as the film is focused on the plot and not a lot of sensational elements. Some criticism has been made about why Ben Affleck plays the role of someone who in real life was Latino. I have no clue as to why, but his performance in this film is well done. Also well done are the film's opening and penultimate scenes that depict the initial takeover of the U.S. Embassy and the attempted escape by Tony and the six staff members.
Argo deserves the praise it is getting as the film is well acted, directed and one of the best films of the year.