3 December 2012

The Best Bad Idea!

When I was ten years old, I was kidnapped and held hostage. This is genuinely a true story. I was sleeping in a tent with three other friends whilst on a scout camp when something caused me to wake the fuck up. I don't remember what time it was but it was pitch black and for some reason I couldn't move my legs. Now, I'm not exactly an Olympic runner, but sudden paralysis can still be a little disconcerting. So I reached into my sleeping bag where I kept my torch, turned it on and discovered that I was in fact no longer in the tent at all.

I'd been dragged out a few feet into the centre of our site by a drunken middle-aged man who was now tightly holding onto my legs. As soon as he saw I was awake he informed me that I was in his sleeping bag and that he wanted it back. My 'Nutter Senses' instantly began to tingle and so I began negotiations. I informed him that he was unfortunately wrong and that in fact I actually suspected my friend was in his stolen sleeping bag. He agreed and released me so that I could go and find out. I woke everybody up, explained about my kidnap ordeal and then together we all convinced him to fuck the hell off. If you were to picture the scene, it would be a little like a cross between The Goonies and Deliverance. At the time I remained calm and wasn't phased in the slightest. If that happened now though I think I'd piss myself with fear and then puke myself to death. I didn’t even get a ‘hostage survival’ badge…

Ben Affleck's latest film Argo deals with a very similar situation to that of my horrific ordeal. It begins in 1979 when the U.S. embassy in Tehran is stormed by a shit load of angry militants. They manage to grab fifty hostages with only six people being able to escape and hide in the nearby home of the Canadian Ambassador. If someone has to make an entertaining film about the tensions between America and the Middle East then I can't think of anyone better than the crimson-gimped Daredevil.
"I dunno, just nail the fucker up
and see what happens..."

Poor old Affleck had a bit of a hard time when he was just a measly actor. It's not that he was bad at his job but that he often made some silly choices. In terms of his career it probably wasn't a good idea to feature so prominently in Surviving Christmas, Jersey Girl and Jennifer Lopez. However it's hard to sympathise with anyone who also willingly accepted a role in Michael Bay's Pear Harbour. Nor can I work out why he wanted to star in John Woo's awful film Paycheck although I suspect there might be a clue in its title. In 2007 he released his directorial debut Gone Baby Gone and thankfully it turned out to be seriously bloody good. I've seen it a few times now and I think that it's ultimate message is that even the scummiest of crackheads is better at raising a child than God is.

Argo is Affleck's third film as a director and his first to not take place in Boston. It tells the story of a rescue operation in which the CIA attempt to help the six people hiding out in the Canadian Ambassador's house in Iran. After exhausting all their various methods of extraction, they finally settle on what they consider their “best bad idea”. This includes faking the production of a movie, pretending to scout Iran for locations and then sneaking the six out as fellow filmmakers. However, if the CIA wanted a movie crew scouting for a film that will believably never get made, they should have simply hired Gilliam as the director. The fake script that they decide on is called Argo and just looks like some shoddy, shitty rendition of Star Wars... Or as we call it, The Phantom Menace.   

"Iran has got some Hostages and
now nobody is looking at me"
Argo opens with the not so new Warner Brothers logo which instantly sets the tone for the next two hours. The film aims to be an old school 70's political thriller and is even filmed to look like it was made in that decade. With its grainy, scratchy film and men with big moustaches, it's either a bit like All the Presidents Men or an old grotty porno. At the same time however, Argo appears to satirise Hollywood by depicting it with a superficial shininess and cynical, selfish attitude. The genius of the film is in how it balances the parallels of a tense political thriller with that of a knockabout Hollywood gigglefest. This all comes together during a scene in which they hold the press meeting for the fake sci-fi film. Whilst this is going on, several hostages are thrown in front of a firing squad who fuck with their mind by shooting empty guns at them. So I guess the thread that links all this together is the idea that everyone is putting on a show for the world. Whether you're a dick-licking Z-list celebrity or an Iranian Militant, the main agenda is to just be seen and to be heard. However if I was given the option to meet some attention-whore like Paris Hilton, then I'd probably prefer an hour with the firing squad.

Slimmer of the year 2001
In terms of casting the actual film, Affleck has done an excellent job. Bryan Cranston, Alan Arkin and John Goodman are all obviously brilliant in their supporting roles. Although, as great as he is, I was under the impression that Goodman had lost a lot of weight in real life. Either that's not true or Affleck has spent a large percentage of the budget on Fred Flintstone’s massive man tits.  Also, the six hidden in Iran are also brilliant with particular praise being owed to the actor from the film Monsters. I'm not sure of his name in real life but he was the thinner guy in this with a stupid paedo-tache and massive bullet-proof glasses. With his character constantly moaning, he could easily have come across as the token classroom dickhead. However when your only rescue plan sounds like the plot of a shit Arnie movie then I'd probably be a bit annoyed too. Because of this, his whining is pretty justified and his dicky fits are pretty understandable.

Titanic was based on a true story and so everybody going in already knew what would happen at the end. Winslet flashes her tits, DiCaprio turns blue and and James Cameron got stupidly rich. I won't ruin the end of Argo because despite it also being based on factual events, most people probably don't know what happened. There has however been some minor criticism of it as Affleck takes some narrative liberties in a bid to raise the tension, however I personally think he gets away with it by successfully making it so suspenseful that people in the audience actually started screaming out. There was one girl in the showing I was in who panicked and loudly shouted, “Just do it”. Considering that I don't live in America, for someone to do that must mean that the film is doing something seriously right. As happy as I was to know someone was that emotionally invested in the film however, I was very conscious that this is England. I don't care how into it they were, no cunt should be shouting anything out loud without expecting an angry glare, loud tut and a strongly worded letter. I don't see why I should be distracted from the movie because they're too retarded to control the connection between their brain and their mouth- having said that however, if someone so much as breathes too loudly near me, I want to stab them in the head until they learn how to shut the fuck up.

"Maybe I was a moose-faced, charisma vacuum"
During the credits there are photographs of the actual people that the actors played, and their resemblance is amazing. Not only has Affleck cast talented people but he's also somehow ensured that everybody is almost an identical double to their real life inspiration. Well, I say everybody, but there was one person in which certain liberties were taken. Tony Mendez is Argo's main character and the man tasked with helping the six Americans escape. In reality, Tony Mendez was a shorter looking Latino chap that actually would have been a good fit for John Leguizamo, however here he is instead played by Affleck himself, who felt that everybody should look true to life except the film’s main fucking character. I don't know how Affleck ended up playing Mendez but I suspect it had something to do with him tossing off the director. Not that I'm complaining by the way, as he still does a really good job in what is actually a fairly thankless role. He might be the hero but there's no rousing speeches or moments of celebrity glory. Instead Affleck mopes about the film bleary eyed and smoking like a man who’s finally gotten around to reading those old Gigli reviews.

Not that he needs to worry about the reviews he's receiving for Argo, which have been unbelievably positive. In my opinion, Affleck is now one of those rare great actors who just like Clint Eastwood, George Clooney and Ron Jeremy has also become a great director. There are talks that this could be up for 'best picture' at next years Oscars but as Rocky proved, the Academy Awards don't mean shit. Either way however, I think it's fair to say that Affleck is now one of the most exciting directors currently working. If Gone Baby Gone proved that he could make a film and The Town proved it wasn't a fluke then I guess Argo goes to demonstrate his ambition and range. I don't know what he's doing next but I'm looking forward to it. Nothing he ever does will be better than the song, “I'm fucking Ben Affleck”, but at least he's trying, bless him.

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