I never thought I'd say these words: Ben Affleck has become one of my favorite directors. It's true. I liked "Gone Baby Gone." I loved "The Town." And I was really impressed by his latest, "Argo." Affleck gracefully balances thriller elements, political drama and showbiz comedy in this well-crafted piece about a CIA rescue during the 1979 Iran hostage crisis. The (true) story itself is amazing; the cover story to get the hostages out is that they are filmmakers scouting a location for a "Star Wars" rip-off. So much works well in the fiml. The action scenes crackle with a tense energy. Affleck lets it look like 1979 - the groovy clothes! the huge glasses! the stylistic horror of it all! - without its becoming mockery of the era. The performances all feel natural and spot-on, with particularly sharp turns by Alan Arkin as a cynical movie producer and Affleck himself as the CIA agent leading the scheme.
- KRISTINA DORSEY