ARGOone Baby Gone:
breaking free from TZ disaster themed cinema
in the film art of Ben Affleck
by Gary W. Wright
As with many younger film artists, breaking free from the cinematic Zone Wars was a major theme in the allegorical film art of Ben Affleck, starting with his first restless, impatient, hopeful and allegorical film, GONE BABY GONE (2007).
‘And like that, she was gone...’
For in the story of the kidnapping and eventual rescuing of Madeline O’Brien’s Amanda McCready by Casey Affleck’s Patrick Kenzie from the dark and desperate grasp of Titus Welliver’s Lionel McCready, Ed Harris’ Sgt. Det. Remy Bressant, John Ashton’s Nick Poole and Morgan Freeman’s Captain Jack Doyle, Affleck clearly expressed his hope that a certain optimistic spirit of film that existed before the deaths of Renee Chen and Myca Le in the TZ disaster, would be returned to film and theatres by younger film artists such as himself, resulting at last in an escape from the twilight and a dawning of a new era of Zone free and daylit film art. Indeed, the fact that Lionel looked like Bruce McGill’s D Day from the allegorical John Landis film, ANIMAL HOUSE (1978), and had a name that evoked Kurt Russell’s MacReady in the allegorical John Carpenter film, THE THING (1982), reaffirmed the implicit allegorical intent of the film. The fact that Remy Bressant’s name evoked Paul Freeman’s Rene Belloq in the George Lucas executive produced and allegorical Steven Spielberg film, RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK (1981), thus linking Bressant to Spielberg reaffirmed the implicit intent of the film. The fact that Harris played Hank Blaine in the ‘Father’s Day’ episode of the gleefully macabre and always allegorical Screamin’ Stephen King scripted George A. Romero film, CREEPSHOW (1982)-a film that was alluded to in GONE BABY GONE-also affirmed the film’s interest in the twilit and disastrous year of 1982. The fact that Poole evoked Frank Marshall, the executive producer of the allegorical Landis, Spielberg, Joe Dante and George Miller telefilm, TWILIGHT ZONE: THE MOVIE (1983), reaffirmed the implicit intent of the film.
In addition, the fact that Doyle’s J.D. initials linked him to Lucas, and was played by an actor who was a director himself with the allegorical film, BOPHA! (1993), reaffirmed the twilit intent of the film. Last but not least, the fact that Kenzie’s hunt for Amanda-who shared the first name of an adopted daughter of Lucas-was linked to the hunt of Harrison Ford’s Rick Deckard for the renegade replicants of the eerily and presciently twilit and allegorical Sir Ridley Scott film, BLADE RUNNER (1982)-complete with a voiceover by Kenzie that evoked Deckard’s voiceover in the original version of BLADE RUNNER and a character named Leon Trett (played by Mark Margolis) whose name evoked the replicant Leon (played by Brion James)-also affirmed the implicit liberating Zone War intent of Affleck.
The fact that a homicidal pedophile named Corwin Earle-played by Matthew Maher-looked like Quentin Tarentino was shot dead at one point in the film also implied that Affleck believed that some younger film artists like Tarentino had failed in their attempt to usher in a Zone War free era of film as their films were too angry and violent. This hopeful quest for a Zone War free age of film art returned in Affleck’s next allegorical film, THE TOWN (2010).
‘See you in Florida, kid!’
Indeed, in the decision of small time punk and bank robber Doug MacRay to leave behind his bank robbing days in Boston and to retire anonymously in Florida in the quiet and reflective end of the THE TOWN after the last blockbuster heist of Fenway Park lead to the shooting deaths of the other three members of his gang, Affleck reaffirmed his commitment to ending the Zone Wars and to heading off in a new Zone free direction, a commitment that was emphasized by the fact that Affleck played MacRay himself. Indeed, Doug MacRay’s names evoked Doug McGrath, who played Larry, and Charles Hallahan, who played Ray, opposite Vic Morrow’s Bill Connor in the Fender Trap bar scene that began the Landis episode of TWILIGHT ZONE: THE MOVIE, affirming Affleck’s implicit interest in leaving behind the TZ disaster and the allegorical cinematic Zone Wars and starting anew. The death of MacRay’s good friend James ‘Gem’ Coughlin-played by Jeremy Renner-in the climatic closing shootout with the police at Fenway Park also affirmed Affleck’s commitment to ending the Zone Wars, as James Coughlin was linked to James Cameron, one of the leading figures in the Zone Wars since his twilit, righteously furious and allegorical film, THE TERMINATOR (1984). The many similarities between THE TOWN and the Cameron produced, twilit and allegorical Kathryn Bigelow film, POINT BREAK (1991)-indeed, in many ways THE TOWN was simply a remake of POINT BREAK-reaffirmed that Affleck was targeting Cameron by way off Bigelow in THE TOWN. The hopeful phrase ‘...see you in Florida’ used by the gang members to express their desire to all retire to Florida one day also evoked Cameron, for Cameron liked to say ‘...see you in the sunshine’ before entering a submersible for another undersea adventure. The presence of Victor Garber as an uncredited assistant bank manager who was roughed up by Coughlin in the film’s opening bank robbery also reaffirmed the film’s Cameron busting intent, as Garber played Titanic designer Thomas Andrews in the twilit and allegorical Cameron film, TITANIC (1997). Preparing us for the return of Garber as Ken Taylor, Canada’s diplomat in Tehran, and more hopeful Zone War ending and new film art era beginning ambitions in Affleck’s next allegorical film, ARGO (2012).
‘Somebody is responsible when things happen, Jack. I’m responsible’.
Indeed, in the successful rescue of six American embassy personnel from Taylor’s ambassador residence after the storming of the US embassy in Tehran in 1979, a rescue accomplished by disguising the six as Canadian film artists on a location scout in Iran for an allegorical science fiction film called ARGO, Affleck reaffirmed his hope that his films could do something to help rescue and liberate film from the twilit and allegorical death grip of the TZ disaster and the Zone Wars. This liberating new hope was reaffirmed by the appearance of Affleck as Tony Mendez, the CIA agent who lead the rescue under the pseudonym Kevin Harkins.
Curiously, however, given the symbolic thrashing Lucas got in GONE BABY GONE, Harkins looked, dressed and acted like Lucas throughout ARGO, even gazing wistfully at his son’s STAR WARS action figure collection in the final shots of the film. This link was affirmed by the fact that Harkins pretended to be the producer of ARGO while rescuing the six in Iran, reminding us that Lucas sympathized so much with the plight of Kennedy, Marshall and Spielberg that he reached out to them and acted as executive producer of two TZ disaster obsessed and allegorical sequels to RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK with them, INDIANA JONES AND THE TEMPLE OF DOOM (1984) and INDIANA JONES AND THE LAST CRUSADE (1989). It was a brave and foolhardy move that cost Lucas his reputation in the eyes of audiences, as it convinced them that he was just as evil and indifferent to human life and justice as Kennedy, Landis, Marshall and Spielberg. This link to Lucas and his executive producer and to Kennedy, Marshall and Spielberg was reaffirmed by the fact that three of the six hostages-Kathy Stafford, Joe Stafford and Mark Lijek, played by Kerry Bishe, Scoot McNairy and Chrisopher Denham, respectively-were implicitly linked to Kennedy, Marshall and Spielberg throughout ARGO.
Thus, by symbolically praising the role Lucas played in saving the careers of Kennedy, Marshall and Spielberg in the Eighties, Affleck reversed his Lucas bashing stance in GONE BABY GONE. However, by ending the film in 1980 after the successful rescue in one of the last good years before the TZ disaster, Affleck still affirmed his commitment to another Good Year and era of Zone free film art, with himself perhaps emerging as the new Lucas who would lead the way in ensuring that the Zone Wars were ARGOne, baby, gone.