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Ben Affleck Retrospective

Ben Affleck Retrospective

It is that time of year when studios begin to roll out their big gun movies with major Academy Award potential, not all are necessarily blockbusters. Most of the time a movie without tremendous hype can often sweep the pool or gain traction through word of mouth. Good Will Hunting in 1997 did just that, nominated for nine Oscars winning two, best supporting actor for the late Robin Williams and best original screenplay for childhood friends, fresh-faced duo Matt Damon and Ben Affleck. It jolted both their careers with Affleck also gaining recognition as a prominent director.

I’ll get back to that, however, his latest film Gone Girl, adapted from the acclaimed novel by Gillian Flynn will raise more than a few eyebrows regarding the awful circumstances on hand. As Nick Dunn, Affleck uses cold stares, outspoken feelings and simple body movements controlling his acting to deflect every possible alternative to the spotlight of his wife’s disappearance from himself. It is a performance summit in his rollercoaster career.

His big screen break was actually a miniscule part as a basketball player in the retro original Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which led to a bigger role in Dazed & Confused, a high school classic which also launched Matthew McConaughey. Around this period, barely released drama School Ties, was significant as the first film to feature himself and Damon together.

Things moved fast for the good looking talented chiseled jawed actor in various independent films such as Mallrats and Chasing Amy, both for director Kevin Smith. Remaining one of the most unlikely romantic comedies to work out of sheer audacity, the boy meets girl, boy likes girl. and girl likes girls comedy Chasing Amy divided certain social factions when released. I still suggest it as recommended Valentines Day viewing for risk takers, the scene in the pouring rain is a jaw-dropping turning point. Forces of Nature, with Sandra Bullock was also OK.

Complete with a chart-busting Aerosmith love song playing during the monumental kissing scene, romance was also the key to success of Armageddon, not just the massive special effects. Unfortunately, Pearl Harbor did not replicate the epic love story as self indulgent director Michael Bay had hoped, overwrought and boring, financially failing, critics also took to Ben as being wooden. Like the Kamikaze pilots depicted in that flop, Affleck’s career went into serious freefall. Man about Town, Surviving Christmas. I saw them in a cinema, few others purposely did.

We now know he is to become the latest incarnation of caped crusader Batman, in the upcoming blockbuster Dawn of Justice, out next year.  Although when first donning the superhero spandex as Daredevil, back in 2003, reactions were not well received. The virtually blind crime fighter didn’t resonate at the time but has since been released in a more accessible definitive version that gained fans. He also met future wife on set, Jennifer Garner as the sword wielding Elektra.

Hooking up with another Jennifer was the basis of tabloid fodder coining the phrase Bennifer and their teaming on screen resulted in one of the worst received movies ever made, Gigli. Thanks to Halle Berry dropping out, Latin pop star Jennifer Lopez took over as a criminal lesbian falling for the tough guy hitman that conveys with a mentally challenged partner. Columbia Studios were inundated with complaint letters from the few who saw it, many cinemas dropped the film after one week of empty screenings, it became so notoriously talked about that when released on VHS, video store owners were compensated if they stocked it.

Luckily Ben didn’t vapourise, a charged cameo in the little seen Boiler Room is an unforgettable monologue of extreme corporate motivation and against all odds, the Oscar winning Shakespeare in Love, showcased his thespian attributes with success. Floundering in mostly ongoing early millennium bad role choices, a surprise 2008 Golden Globe nomination as tragic late actor George Reeves (television’s Superman) Hollywoodland, caught the attention of many who had relegated Affleck to the tinseltown scrap-heap.  Directing his little brother Casey in the critically acclaimed Gone Baby Gone, became an uprising at what was to come.

Less fluff followed, He’s Just Not That Into You the exception, but holding his own opposite cinematic heavyweights Russell Crowe and Helen Mirren in State of Play, made up for that. Starring in and directing both The Town, the pulsating Boston bank robber thriller with a rampant Jeremy Renner and best picture Oscar winner Argo, true story of hostages in Tehran and a false movie crew getting them out defined his maturity as a filmmaker leaving the Bennifer moniker behind forever.

Featuring singer, comedian Neil Patrick Harris as you have never seen him before, Gone Girl will continue the superlative Affleck progress. A movie with tangled webs and disturbing surprises around every corner, readers of the book will know exactly what I mean. Masterfully told from David Fincher (Seven, Girl with the Dragon Tattoo), the story is bleak and chilling, audiences will be stunned simply by the presence of Ben Affleck, I assure you.

As a movie analyst, I believe the Dark Knight legacy is in good hands.

Shane A. Bassett

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