Ben Affleck directs his third film following the successes of “Gone Baby Gone” and “The Town”, and doesn’t fail to impress this time round with arguably his best piece of directorial work yet. He takes on a film based on true events which occurred in 1979 during the Iranian Revolution, who were outraged by American support towards the overthrown Shah. In retaliation to the Shah’s fleeing from Iran, a crowd of Iranian revolutionaries raided the American Embassy taking the majority of the American staff hostage, but six managed to escape, taking refuge at the Canadian Ambassadors house. During this crises plans had developed from the CIA to rescue the six unknown escapee’s, only to realize that non of their idea’s were actually viable. It took CIA specialist, Tony Mendez (Ben Affleck) to come up with the next “bad” idea which turned out to be the best of the bunch. The elaborate plan consisted of developing a fake sci-fi film during its production stage so that the six hostages and himself could portray a film crew going into Iran for a location scout. Only that pretending the film crew had entered the country with him and leaving two days later would be bigger than just a white lie.
The film consists of two tones, a comedic and dark tone. During the planning stage of the rescue, which take’s place mostly in Hollywood is the more light hearted mood, which old timer Alan Arkin plays to comedic perfection, stealing most of the laughs. It was great to see John Goodman and Arkin together, playing the experienced boys in the film industry, which really created a good contrast to all the seriousness based in Iran. Once the tones switch to the setting of Iran, there is a much more claustrophobic feeling which is perfectly captured through filming and the performances of the six escapees. I really liked how the film transitioned between these tones, making the film flow smoothly and reminding the audiences that failure remains the most likely outcome.
There was something very genuine about this film, and it had to do with the filming and attention to detail. The fact that you felt as though you were actually in the late 70s possibly watching a 70s film just entices you more. The costumes, hairstyles and props were amazing, evidently shown during the end credits as they compared pictures of the actual people they were portraying with the actors. There was also something very 70s about the filming, there was a certain grain to the picture which gave it a more classic look as opposed to a crystal clear picture. It also helped fit in the real life footage with the film footage, effectively making them both feel connected and set in the same time. This film doesn’t contain adrenaline pumping action but consists of probably the best nail biting scenes you will see in film, which is totally aided from the filming. From the close up reaction shots to the shaky camera work, it all blends together to make something ultimately heart pounding. The scenes where the escapees are together debating their fate, were also my favorite scenes, because you can sense their panic and despair.
The whole cast are amazing and each important character had something special about them. I think the six escapees stole the film in terms of their performances, because they worked together so perfectly that you believed their emotions and their panic and their diminishing hope. Each scene where they are all together exudes pure realism, which I thought was pretty unique in films of this genre. Alan Arkin and John Goodman put in the comedic aspect of the film with their comedic timing. Bryan Cranston gave it his all during the last scenes which lives as one of my favorite performances by him, and Ben Affleck, solid as always. Overall solid performances, can’t fault that.
When looking back at the film in terms of plot, the story line is actually very thin, and doesn’t contain much substance, which is just a huge testament to the importance of filming style, because without the influence of Ben Affleck and the filming crew, this film would have been very unsatisfying. Great film.