With Argo, Ben Affleck the director has widened his scope into a “based on a true story” historical drama and shifted into full-on crowd-pleaser mode. And while Argo is expertly crafted, written, and acted, there’s something lost in its predestined need to be neat, tidy, and ultimately gratifying. Taking place during the Iran hostage crisis which began in 1979, Argo tells of a recently declassified CIA mission to extricate a handful of U.S. diplomats who are hiding in the Canadian ambassador’s (Victor Garber) home. With Iran in the throes of revolution — and with the diplomats constantly in danger of being discovered and murdered — seemingly disgraced CIA agent Tony Mendez (Affleck in a truly awkward beard-and-haircut combo) comes up with a seemingly harebrained, eccentric scheme. By posing the diplomats as Canadian filmmakers scouting locations for a bogus science fiction film called Argo, Mendez thinks he can sneak the Americans through Iranian security and onto a plane back to the States. The film spends the bulk of its setup resembling something like a heist flick, as Mendez — with the help of a schlocky special effects maven (John Goodman) and a Hollywood producer (an occasionally outstanding Alan Arkin) — creates the lie which is Argo. The climax, which consists of a compacting series of near misses and close calls, attempts to stack suspense on top of suspense. Unfortunately, things get a bit out of hand, and while it’s never too silly, Affleck manages to strain credulity almost to its breaking point.