Argo

A Hollywood con bamboozles 1979 Iran.

Directed by Ben Affleck

(R)

****

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Like Clint Eastwood and Robert Redford, Ben Affleck can now be thought of as filmmaker first, movie star second, said Jon Niccum in The Kansas City Star. His alternately tense and hilarious new thriller rates as “one of the year’s best films.” Affleck directs and plays the lead in this fact-based story about a CIA officer who mounts a fake Star Wars–style movie project as a cover to slip six U.S. Embassy workers out of revolutionary 1979 Iran. “The major challenge for Affleck was to manage the tone of two very strikingly different situations”—a Hollywood full of glib dealmakers and a foreign hideout occupied by terrified political prisoners, said Randy Myers in the San Jose Mercury News. Fortunately, the director “juggles it all with acrobatic precision.” John Goodman and Alan Arkin help the cause with “unforgettable comic performances” as Hollywood pros enlisted in the scheme. Only an overlong coda spoils Affleck’s effort, said Anthony Lane in The New Yorker. Inserting a voiced-over thank-you to the real-life heroes from Jimmy Carter is, “frankly, uncool”—a rare off-note for a movie that’s otherwise “clever, taut, and restrained.”

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