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Archive for the ‘Ben Affleck’ Category

Gone Girl

24 Oct

Gone Girl ­ – directed by David Fincher. Drama. 140 minutes Color 2014

★★★★

The Story: The wife of a man disappears unaccountably, and the community is in arms.

~

This piece has the opening beauty of a Hitchcock picture: a wrong-man-accused is his most frequent theme. But Hitchcock knew such a theme could not be dragged out at this length, for we have to wait over two hours for this shaggy dog to stop wagging its tail.

Ben Affleck is the lug whose wife has disappeared, and, as usual, he is completely credible. The wife is played by Rosamund Pike and she is equally credible because she plays a part of a woman who likes no one and therefore one is not obliged to care whether she lives or dies. Perfect casting: January Jones country. Kim Dickens is particularly effective as the policewoman striving to sort the case out as is Carrie Coon as Affleck’s twin sister and Lola Kirk as a low-life lady Pike meets on her way, and Tyler Perry as Affleck’s powerhouse lawyer.

The picture is effective in its opening two acts but falls asleep on itself as it generates nightmares to jack itself up. We are asked to enter into unnecessary, unsupportable complications, whereas all we care about, after a point, is Will the villain be trapped or not and how. Once the perfidy is arranged for us, we need no further perfidy to crown it. It is a film that does not realize that third acts always needs to get on with it.

The production is sumptuous, but the producers have made one stupid error, which is to hire the author of the novel to write the screenplay – for the reason the film exhausts itself is her jamming everything in the book into it. The interest of the neighbors and the press, for instance, would be better felt than seen. So would the episodes with Neil Patrick Harris. All we need is the scene in the hospital with her afterwards. How she did it is of no interest at this point. That she did it is everything, and all we need to know to put ourselves in the shoes of Affleck.

For film is not an imaginative medium. Which is to say, literature requires reading and reading requires one to fill in the lacunae with one’s imagination – how people look, sound, gesture, and how crowds are, one makes up for oneself as one reads.

In film the work of the imagination is done by everything being shown. Unless, even better, it is not shown. That is to say in film no imagination is required; so what is left unshown counts enormously to sustain interest, humor, and tension. Film narration, at least in suspense film, depends upon what is left out. And most films are suspense films.

Too bad here.

Vulgarity, as MGM long ago proved, consists in showing everything.

As to whether it is necessary for you to see this film I leave it out; yes, I leave it to your imagination.

~

 

 

Argo

27 Oct

Argo – directed by Ben Affleck. Docuthriller. The staff of American Embassy in Iran is seized, but six escape. A CIA agent determines to spirit them out by the bizarre means of imposturing them as a B-level Hollywood sci-fi film crew scouting locations. 120 minutes Color 2012.
★★★★★
Ben Affleck plays the agent and carries the film’s strong script by being able to convey the ability to tolerate his own uncertainty of success, all along the line. From the time the U.S. government first realizes the six are, unbeknownst to the Iranians, holed up in The Canadian Embassy and starts hatching escapes, each one worse than the one before, it finally ends up with the best of the worst, devised by Affleck. He is pals with a famed Hollywood make-up artist, played by John Goodman, who is always a welcome presence, and Goodman enlists a superannuated director, played by Alan Arkin. Both of these expertly supply the comedy, for the three men have to come up with a script and a shooting schedule and an announcement bash to get the film, Argo, in the papers, so it will sound real to the Iranians when the time comes for Affleck to go Tehran and attempt the caper. Affleck has directed a first class suspense thriller, and lets us see the point of view of the hiding six, the government who okays it, the last minute changes of plan and favor, much as it all must have happened to everyone back in the day when President Carter was stuck with the horrible embarrassment of the situation to the U.S., and the peril to the majority of the Embassy staff, who remained imprisoned for 444 days. Affleck is great in the part, the music is good, the script is nifty, the color is suave, and you wonder how they ever managed to film all those crowd scenes. How’d they ever do it! Terrific. And educational too: I never heard of this daring escape before. Did you?

 

The Town

27 Oct

The Town –– directed by Ben Affleck –– a gangster crime-flick: a bank robber falls in love, which sorely threatens his career. Color 1020.

* * * * *

Boy is Ben Affleck a good actor. And a good director. And a good writer too. Given the grace of a regional accent to execute, he comes alive like nobody’s business. It’s really not possible not to watch him while he’s on camera, and, unlike most actor-directors, he wisely does not hesitate to give himself proper screen time –– wise, because the internal life he endures is what molds the plot, and we need to be privy to it at all times. The picture is a bank-heist piece, with three, count them, three robberies, all done in costume, and all executed with charming finesse. Jeremy Renner plays the Joe Pesci part, a man addicted to his profession, just as he was in The Hurt Locker. Chris Cooper and Pete Postlethwaite come in as ruthless old geezers, and Postlethwaite’s final scene is something to write home about. Actors, come and rejoice! Pete’s a treat. You completely believe in his power to intimidate. It’s never played for evil. Nope. The romantic lead is Rebecca Hall, and I find it hard to take an interest in her much, but the character is very well written. The whole picture has the virtue of its sources in the gangster films of the 30s with Lawrence Tierney and Pat O’Brien and James Cagney and Edward G Robinson, and it’s fun to think back on those movies and how simple they were in telling the same story. I like the relentlessness of that simplicity. And I like the searing spectacle of such modern elaborations as this. And I particularly light the sight of The Town of Boston, in which the director feels fully at home and alive.

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