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Now that his third film as a director is being released, it’s

safe to say Ben Affleck has turned a corner. Argo is Affleck’s most ambitious film to date, taking place around the world instead of his cozy Boston hometown. It also tackles a true and internationally remembered event: the Iran hostage crisis. The movie details the rather spectacular story-within-a-story about six American diplomats who escaped Tehran by posing as a Canadian film crew. Affleck not only directs but stars as CIA operative Tony Mendez, playing the most serious of the fake filmmakers, who also include Alan Arkin as a Roger Corman-esque director/producer and John Goodman as a makeup artist. What Affleck, as a real filmmaker, manages to do remarkably is balance comedy and drama, switching to a lighthearted, jokey tone at the film’s midpoint when the scheme is being hatched. The one-liners never feel forced, disrespectful, or out of place; soon enough, the film seamlessly slips back to dead-serious again. But don’t believe all the hype -- as solid and engrossing as Argo is, it ultimately falls short of exceptional. (TO)