Very few celebrities have shot to fame, nose-dived into a pile of mud and then emerged from that filth completely transformed like Ben Affleck.

After a series of flops and one of the most high-profile relationships ever, he has reinvented himself as an astounding director with each feature more impressive than the next. His newest film, “Argo,” continues that streak in an impressive fashion.

“Argo” told the real-life tale of when the CIA used a rather unconventional tactic to retrieve six hostages from a hostile Iran. This method involved the creation of a fake sci-fi movie titled “Argo” and claimed the hostages were a part of the film’s crew.

The movie was as simple as it sounds, like the other two Affleck movies “Gone Baby Gone” and “The Town.” It was impossible to get lost in its tale of the ridiculousness of the Hollywood process and the tension that involved the hostages and the angry Iran citizens. But that was because it moved between the two so well.

The trailer of this movie suggested the movie would be both a thriller and a comedy, which left some wondering if it were the best way to tackle the subject. In actuality, it was the movie’s greatest strength.

Affleck knew the scenes in Iran and dealing with the hostages should not be funny but thrilling. The tension of seeing the chaos on the streets of Iran and the idea that at any time the whole operation could go bust was palpable and tightly shot with an attention to detail and characters that was masterful and engaging. You became engaged in what the characters were doing, fully understood the situation and wanted them to make it home.

On the other side, the scenes involving the Hollywood movie dealings were both funny and insightful and clearly came from the mind of a man who had done scenes like that a million times. Alan Arkin and John Goodman stole the show as producer Lester Siegel and make-up artist John Chambers as Hollywood veterans who had been around the block a few times. It poked fun at the industry while it still made a point about the power of movies and all the good they can bring. There was one scene where even the armed Iranian guards were stunned they were meeting actual movie folk.

These two styles of filmmaking smoothly transitioned into one another without it feeling like two movies. That was what made Affleck so good at directing: He has been in enough good and bad movies to know exactly what will work and where and doesn’t overstay his welcome or overdo it.

Needless to say, “Argo” was a tense, entertaining and expertly filmed thriller that could easily be seen as a commentary on the power of movies. Although the process of putting them together can be a bit ridiculous, they can do marvels in the hands of people with enough conviction and passion. That and Affleck’s talent as a director made “Argo” one of the best movies of the year and solidified him as a force to be reckoned with.

Who would’ve thought Daredevil could create something this good three times in a row?

Grade: A

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