Ben Affleck: a man on the up


Once upon a time there were two brothers. Ben, the older by two years, had always looked out for little Matt as they grew up together in Massachusetts. Together they dreamed they would do great things. Both were much loved for their acting and had great early success with their film Good Will Hunting. They had Oscars for screenplays before they had hair on their chests. Staying together for a short while, the pair appeared for their good friend Kevin Smith in Dogma. However, soon the brothers would go their separate ways.

At first it looked as though Ben was going to continue leading the way, showing Matt around Hollywood just as he had around the Cambridge Latin School in their youth. Huge financial success followed him wherever he went. Armageddon, Pearl Harbor, Shakespeare in Love, The Sum of All Fears , even Daredevil. But, whilst Ben was raking in the money and partying it away in Hollywood, the critics lamented his new approach, scorning his projects. All the time, the good brother was working hard, appearing in many more low-key films across a wide variety of genres. Little bits of voice-acting were not beneath Matt, and occasionally a piece that showcased his talents came along like The Talented Mr. Ripley.

As the years passed Matt Damon went from strength to strength. Franchises, Ocean and Bourne, built his global success. Yet, he always remembered that variety got him where he was. Voicing Bill the Krill in Happy Feet Two was no less important than working with Scorsese or the Coen Brothers.  Meanwhile Ben had fallen on harder times. He had been lured down the McConaughey-way of charming drab leads in Romantic Comedies and funnelled into inglorious, formulaic supporting roles. He needed to change his ways.

In 2007 Ben Affleck looked up from the trough he was eating from and started his journey home. Moving behind the camera, he directed Gone Baby Gone and followed this up with the 2010 success The Town. November sees Ben arrive home into welcoming arms.

Argo tells the true story of Tony Mendez, a CIA operative, and his attempts to safely return embassy workers held hostage in Tehran during 1979. With the crisis having to be kept a secret and all logical hostage rescues scenarios unfeasible, Mendez has a Eureka moment. Watching Battle for the Planet of the Apes with his son, Mendez realised that the heroes of Science-fiction could save real lives. His unit would create hype for a fake Star Wars-style space fantasy, commissioning a script called Argo and having real press cover the story. Disguised as location scouts, Mendez and his team could then ‘exfiltrate’ the hostages. John Goodman and Alan Arkin appear as Hollywood hacks and Bryan Cranston continues his eclectic career (you’ll still recognise him as the dad from Malcolm in the Middle if not from Breaking Bad) as Mendez’s partner.

Widely tipped as the most creative hostage thriller in years, Argo appears to be Affleck’s Golden Fleece, the prodigal son returns in a blaze of glory. Whether Mr. Affleck can ever gain parity with his tenth-cousin once removed, Mr. Damon, is uncertain. Perhaps the two will team up again, with brother Ben behind the camera, or on a new screenplay. Either way, the cinematic vista is all the richer for having Affleck’s talents channelled back where they belong; in challenging and innovative narrative film-making.


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