In the last five years, over the span of just three features, Ben Affleck has established himself as one of the most consistent directors in Hollywood. For his latest drama, which we took a look at in Toronto, the filmmaker has turned a few decades back to 1979, capturing a intense, sometimes comedic true-story of hostage rescue via a fake film crew. Drawing on a wealth of films, both new and old, we take a look at five you’ll want to brush up on before heading into the theater this weekend. Check out the rundown below.
All the President’s Men (Alan J. Pakula, 1976)
Not only is this political feature a paradigm for taut, well-founded 1970s-set thrillers, the Dustin Hoffman and Robert Redford-led film was also specifically used by Affleck as an example for Argo. With his production also making use of Washington, D.C., as they shot on location, the director looked at how Pakula so skillfully captured the surroundings and I couldn’t think of a better mold to follow. – Jordan R.
The Anderson Tapes (Sidney Lumet, 1971)
One of the first films to really dig into the idea that the “important” people were always watching, this overlooked Sidney Lumet ’70s-set picture featured Sean Connery expanding his range a bit as an ex-con who realized he’s being watched by anybody and everybody. For what reason? He’s not entirely sure. Though far from perfect, Lumet’s film is one made before its time - Dan M.
The Killing of a Chinese Bookie (John Cassavetes, 1976)
It’s dirty, violent, funny and sexy. You’ll want to take a shower afterwards, and then watch it again. John Cassavetes‘ sly examination of the slimy entertainment world oozes with every kind of emotion, brilliantly taken on by Ben Gazzara, who would never be better. Few other movies more succinctly examine how the quest for success can so quickly become a fight for survival. - Dan M.
Munich (Steven Spielberg, 2005)
That sex scene notwithstanding, Munich is both a late-era masterwork of true complexity and, I’d add, one of Spielberg’s finest hours as both storyteller and formal craftsman. Since we pretty much know how this turns out before the first wrenching kill — hello there, Argo — it’s that much more incredible to see The Beard orchestrate each scene with a deft hand for tension. But, while Munich is, yes, highly entertaining, that all comes at a moral cost which might render it the darkest film of Spielberg’s career. Friday’s release will be lucky to contain half of what makes this such a terrific film. – Nick N.
Syriana (Stephen Gaghan, 2005)
A masterpiece of the Bush era, Gaghan’s film is a fully-realized look into what has emerged as the great war of our time, and perhaps of any time: money and resources. Featuring George Clooney in an Oscar-winning turn and Jeffrey Wright as a scene-stealing political liaison slowly crippled by his moral compromising, Syriana serves as a poignant reminder of the country we live in and the politics that fuel it. As Affleck heads to the Middle East for Argo, hopefully he got some helpful tips from his friends involved with this production. - Dan M.
Argo opens everywhere October 12th.
What films would you recommend brushing up on before Argo?
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