Friday, 12 October 2012
BEN AFFLECK Feature-LEADING MAN
By TIM DAVID HARVEY.
The legend Clint Eastwood and this generations Cary Grant; George Clooney better watch out. There's a new actor/director who looks to be the next great in the long silver-screen line and his name is Ben Affleck. Yes that Ben Affleck. The 'Bennifer' guy that was for years cruelly criticized for choosing the wrong films compared to his friend and co-fame founder Matt Damon. The guy that stunned the world with his sobering and sublime debut 'Gone Baby Gone', directing his underrated, talented brother Casey. The guy that shot the lights out of everything even the iconic shoot-out in 'Heat', in-front and behind the lens in 'The Town'. The Berkeley born, Boston raised, blue-collar director who has earned himself the title Mr. November. The man that looks to gain more Academy and acclaim with his next big hit 'Argo'.
'Argo' is based on a true story of back when-during the 1979 Iran hostage crisis-the CIA posed as a Canadian film crew shooting a Sci-Fi movie (the same titled 'Argo') in order to rescue six U.S. diplomats from Tehran. The movie has drawn the talents of legends John Goodman and breaking star of the moment Bryan Cranston, to go along with rave reviews and a production credit and co-sign from politically and socially conscious actor/director George Clooney. This just goes to show that Affleck is in the esteemed company of the likes of Clooney's legendary legacy. These days-like George-the choices Ben makes are bold, brilliant and unapologetically unwavering.
Like the blueprint of acting/directing Clint Eastwood, Ben knows how to direct and deal with the toughest of subject matters that need to be addressed. With 'Mystic River', 'Changeling' and more Clint courageously dealt with the callous crimes done to children in a necessary and thought provoking way deep into his career, but with the great 'Gone Baby Gone' Affleck did it with his first movie. A movie that showed a gritty yet beautiful side of his native Boston much like one of the best thrillers/dramas in the epic 'The Town'. A film with some of the best shoot-outs action films have ever seen. Taking inspiration and almost taking over the classic bank job in De Niro and Pacino's 'Heat'. We feel sorry for whatever stage hand had to pick up the bullet casings after this one.
In 'Gone Baby Gone' Affleck turned his younger brother into a star, like he did with Blake Lively and 'Avenger'/'Bourne' Jeremy Renner in 'The Town'. Not bad for a guy that was said to be suffering from his writing friend Matt Damon's 'Bourne' rebirth in the same spy franchise. In 'Argo' Ben looks to bring the best out of screen greats Goodman and Cranston, like he did with Ed Harris and Morgan Freeman in 'Gone Baby Gone' and like he did in 'The Town' taking 'Mad Man' Jon Hamm from the television screens to the silver ones.
Just like he does with everyone else, Ben is bringing the best out of himself and that is the mark of a true leading man whether it be in regards to direction or acting action. In just three films in the directors chair (he was already doing it with his first) Ben Affleck is gaining the respect of every peer and critic alike that he couldn't with dozens of his roles in the last decade. The 'Bennifer' days are long behind him, he is married to another Jennifer now in 'Daredevil' co-star Garner. Still, those J-Lo tabloid days where harshly scrutinized by the press. After all this was Ben's private life and should have remained as such. His work in the public eye should have demanded more respect too.
When Ben wrote the generational classic 'Good Will Hunting' with high-school friend Matt Damon he did more than add a farts worth as 'Family Guy' jokes and peoples opinions can attest. Together the dominant 'Dogma' boys changed the game and set the tone for future young writers and introduced themselves as major stars and Academy players. Following this Damon went on to find more gold in a spy franchise that would draw him Bond comparisons along with other movies while Affleck looked at blockbuster season. Many saw it as Damon's substance over Affleck's style, thinking that Ben was just taking the money. The reality is, is that both big-names took the big-roles and the small ones too (if not Affleck taking more indie ones). Besides when your friend is being compared to 007 the coolest man alive, what chance do you stand? You could date Gwyneth Paltrow and Jennifer Lopez and still not touch that type of cool class.
Affleck who looks set to direct an adaptation of Stephen King's 'The Stand' and had even been offered a directing gig for a 'Justice League' movie (apparantly he's passed, he probably wants to stay away from the superhero capes) may be in a much better, greater career space now, but his early filmography is nothing to be sniffed at. There's 'Mallrats' and 'Chasing Amy' his classic, classy cameo where he owned the floor in 'Boiler Room' the indie hot, modern day 'Wall Street'. For every 'Pearl Harbor' there's a 'Reindeer Games' and even Michael Bay's epicly, long, war blockbuster was better than most say.
Just like the big, bold blockbuster 'Armageddon', Affleck put in a great performance even drawing some tears in the kind of big, bravado films Hollywood doesn't make anymore. He also passed the torch from Harrison Ford and did a great job as Jack Ryan (Chris Pine should take note) in 'The Sum Of All Fears' in one of those great nineties style thrillers that these days that have sadly left with Tony Scott on that tragic day this year. Even the heavily criticized blind superhero 'Daredevil' should have seen more love, especially from those racist critics who said 'Armageddon' co-star Michael Clarke Duncan (rest peacefully) "shouldn't have played Kingpin because Kingpin isn't black". Please! The late, great Clarke Duncan put in a great performance as did everybody in an underrated, fun superhero film. Besides Affleck got a marriage out of it (to co-star Jennifer Garner),Garner got a spin-off out of it (thanks to 'Elektra') and Jon Favareau got a love for comic-books and an 'Iron Man' gig out of it and we all know how well that turned out. Plus Ben's 'Pearl Harbor' co-star Josh Hartnett is due to reboot it so this hero's obviously done some good.
Sure the 'Golden Raspberry's came but at least 'Paycheck' had a cool concept, even if it didn't work. The tense, head-to-head drama with Samuel L. Jackson 'Changing Lanes' did however wonderfully, running critics off the road and half (alongside with 'Arlington Road') inspiring Sam Jackson's underrated recent find 'Lakeview Terrace'. The classic 'Hollywoodland' and his sobering performance in 'State Of Play' brought everything back together for Affleck however before he started creating great movies and helped make real, new ones with real, relevant things to say like the recession proof 'The Company Men'. It's clear after suffering from being down and out, Ben Affleck's career had tightened up his belt and afforded more.
'Runner, Runner' comes next for the man that just keeps going and going and wants to one day run for congress. Let's just hope him and his 'LivePlanet' co-founder Matt Damon write and star together one day because one of the greatest duo's in film need to give us another classic to add to their A-List catalogue. That would really make the two leading men the Lennon and McCartney of movies and after all they've been through imagine what they could come up with!? For now though it's all about 'Argo' and with award season coming up this film is a genuine picture based on a fake movie with a real chance of making a difference. Affleck may be a long way off Eastwood and Clooney but in the short space of three feature lengths look what he's done. Can you imagine where he'll be when he gets their decades behind his belt. Not breaking rocks and waiting for his friend to show up to tell him not to make the same mistakes as him. This is Ben Affleck's time now.