A few years ago, upon watching the slightly-underrated Hollywoodland, I came to a seemingly random and unlikely conclusion. The film, based on the real life suicide of George Reeves (TV's original Superman), stars Adrien Brody as a private investigator who gets caught up in the investigation via a series of seemingly unrelated twists and turns. It is not, admittedly, the best-made movie (or even particularly well-made, though there is certainly talent behind it), but it does showcase a rebounding Ben Affleck as George Reeves. A small role, to be sure, but one lucky enough to be the centerpiece of the film's plot.
I don't know why (no, really, I have no clue), but as I finished watching Hollywoodland I thought to myself, "Ben Affleck would make a good director." At the time there was absolutely nothing to base this conclusion on. One might be able to point to the screenplay for Good Will Hunting (which he co-wrote with Matt Damon), but given the controversies surrounding who actually wrote (or helped mentor, at the very least) that script, it's not wise to for the sake of an argument. Affleck had yet to direct anything that I'm aware of. And, let's face it, his acting resume had turned into a bit of a laughing stock (Gigli, anyone?).
The year after Hollywoodland, however, Gone Baby Gone (2007, by the way) was released. It blew me away. The director? Ben Affleck.
Sure, it was only one film, but I suddenly felt vindicated for having that seemingly random and unlikely conclusion.
Fast-forward three years to 2010. The Town gets a release. It doesn't blow me away like Gone Baby Gone did, but I'm thoroughly entertained and deeply admire its director for actually filming a car chase in which we're not getting dizzy trying to follow the action (in fact, I claim that it's the best-directed Hollywood car chase since Frankeheimer's Ronin way back in 1998). The Town, simply put, is an expertly-made film. The director? Ben Affleck (who, like Eastwood in Gran Torino, fit himself into a leading role perfectly).
A few months ago I wrote about who I felt were the greatest living American film directors. To me, Clint Eastwood currently sits on that throne. But, given the advanced age of the directors on that list, I openly admitted to eagerly awaiting the next batch of great American directors.
I realize I'm going out on a limb here, but I'm putting Ben Affleck on that list. And I'm calling him the heir apparent to Eastwood (for several reasons, some of which are painfully obvious).
No, I'm not joking. I have a feeling his next film will prove me right. If it doesn't, then, well, his film after that one will.