Director: Ben Affleck
Stars: Ben Affleck, Bryan Cranston, Alan Arkin, John Goodman, Tate Donovan, Scoot McNairy, Clea DuVall, Christopher Denham, Kerry Bishe, Rory Cochrane, Kyle Chandler, Chris Messina, Titus Welliver, Taylor Schilling

Hopefully the current rumors of Ben Affleck pursuing John Kerry's now-vacant U.S. Senate seat aren't true, because the guy is one hell of a filmmaker. Since his 2007 debut Gone Baby Gone, Affleck's directorial chops keep getting better by the project, first improving from excellent to mesmerizing with The Town (2010) and now elevating to master status with Argo.

It doesn't hurt that Affleck found screenwriter Chris Terrio's wonderfully taut script to translate for the big screen. Based on an incredible true story, Argo follows CIA specialist Tony Mendez (Affleck) as he heads to Iran to use a fake Hollywood cover to secretly escort six U.S. diplomats trapped there after the 1979 Iranian hostage crisis. It's one of those real-life cinematic exercises that's contingent on selling the suspense even though audiences know exactly how everything will turn out. Affleck's film is a funny, engrossing seat's-edge thriller that generates an impressive amount of excitement during its (somewhat fictionalized) third act.

Argo also excels at the hands of its large, uniformly first-rate ensemble cast, marked by superb, scene-stealing turns from Alan Arkin and John Goodman as a couple of snarky, no-bullshit movie business veterans. Overseeing a massive group of seasoned actors and promising newcomers (namely Scoot McNairy as the most skeptical of the diplomats), Affleck shows that he's an exceptional shotcaller on a film's set. For the sake of quality cinema, let's just hope he doesn't decide to test those crowd control skills out in Washington, DC.