I haven't been fully convinced by Affleck as a director in the past. Gone Baby Gone was one of my most anticipated movies that year (and one of my favourite books at the time) and I thought he handled that one rather poorly, with some hammy acting, incredibly flat camerawork/shot compositions, and especially bad editing despite all the talent he assembled.
But The Town was a very good leap forward, a generally smart thriller that was a cut above the Hollywood norm, with some great performances and energy.
With Argo, Affleck has grown as a filmmaker yet again (with some help from Rodrigo Prieto, William Goldenberg, and Alexander Desplat), and by a healthy amount. I had read the article this was based on a few years ago but despite knowing the story, the movie had me in its grip from the thrilling opening all the way through to the end. Affleck builds the mood expertly - I'll cut him some slack for the "right down to the wire" Hollywood-type scenes because for the most part, they work as he peels off every layer of the case for maximum tension. The film works as a fantastic slow-burn thriller (Affleck has said he's a big fan of All the President's Men and it shows) but it's also effortlessly entertaining in its many moments of levity thanks to a great cast that make strong impressions with limited screen time.
It's great entertainment buoyed by great filmmaking. Affleck has come a long way.