"Argo" widely praised by critics

Ben Affleck in "Argo." Keith Bernstein/Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.

"Argo," Ben Affleck's new political thriller, opens Friday and is already being hailed as a serious Oscar contender by critics.

The film is based on Tony Mendez's account of the rescue of six U.S. diplomats from Tehran, Iran, during the 1979 Iran hostage crisis. Affleck directs and stars in the film along with Bryan Cranston, Alan Arkin, John Goodman and Victor Garber.

The film has been widely praised by critics, some even calling it the best film of the year, and received a 93 percent on review aggregation site Rotten Tomatoes.

Here's what some critics have to say:

Todd McCarthy of The Hollywood Reporter: "Argo is a crackerjack political thriller told with intelligence, great period detail and a surprising amount of nutty humor for a serious look at the Iran hostage crisis of 1979-81. Proving even more than before that he's a behind-the-camera force to be reckoned with, Ben Affleck tells a dense, multilayered yarn 'based on a declassified true story' with confidence and finesse, while its unlikely Hollywood angle will make the hometown industry crowd feel proud of itself. From all points of view, this is one the major releases of the fall season."

Christy Lemire of the Associated Press: "While steeped in the trends and filmmaking style of the decade, 'Argo' still feels immediate and relevant. Affleck's best film yet is also one of the best films of the year."

Michael Phillips of the Chicago Tribune: "The propulsive hostage thriller 'Argo,' the third feature directed by Ben Affleck, just plain works. It's heartening to encounter a film, based on fact but happy to include all sorts of exciting fictions to amp up the suspense, whose entertainment intentions are clear. The execution is clean, sharp and rock-solid. It's as apolitical as a political crisis story set in Iran can get."

Richard Corliss of Time magazine: "Argo piles up the dread in any viewer, but it's a feeling of unease familiar from the suspense films of Alfred Hitchcock and his myriad imitators. Affleck adds nothing new; and the acute sense of place in the director's first two films, Gone, Baby, Gone and The Town, set in his native Boston, is necessarily missing here."

Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times: "Affleck easily orchestrates this complex film with 120 speaking parts as it moves from inside-the-Beltway espionage thriller to inside Hollywood dark comedy to gripping international hostage drama, all without missing a step."

Ann Hornaday of the Washington Post: "Have you heard that cinema is dying? That the movies are kaput? That Hollywood just doesn't make films for grown-ups anymore? You've heard wrong -- at least if 'Argo' is any indication. This captivating, expertly machined political thriller jumps through every hoop the naysayer can set up: It's serious and substantive, an ingeniously written and executed drama fashioned from a fascinating, little-known chapter of recent history."

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