Movie Review: Argo

I have recently acquired a new full-time job and that impacts heavily on my free time and blah blah etc etc. My blog shall continue regardless! Anyway I saw this film a couple of weeks back.

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Starring:
Ben Affleck, Alan Arkin, John Goodman
Director:
Ben Affleck (Gone Baby Gone, The Town)
Rating: M
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If there is one director who has risen to the top tier of my favourites list faster than anyone else in recent times, it’s Ben Affleck. His 2010 effort The Town blew me away, particularly as it kept me interested in a plot I did not think I would particularly enjoy. After seeing it I went back and watched Affleck‘s directorial debut, Gone Baby Gone, and I enjoyed it just as much. It turns out I wasn’t alone in my opinions, as Rotten Tomatoes attested to. Being two from two with critics is one thing, but what makes Affleck‘s case all the more fascinating is that for most of the first decade of the 21st century, he was the laughing stock of Hollywood. Just watch Team America: World Police. He had an entire song dedicated to his acting and it wasn’t exactly glowing with praise.

But the role of Affleck‘s past in his current popularity is besides the point of this article. The point is that Affleck is now three from three behind the lens, with critics and with me. Argo, one of my most anticipated films of 2012, is fantastic.

The film’s premise is all kinds of insane and, better yet, it’s based on a true story. A pile of recently declassified CIA files pertaining to the Iran hostage crisis of 1979 forms its base. The film allegedly takes some liberties from the truth for the sake of drama, but by and large it sticks to actual events. I was barely even aware of what the ’79 hostage crisis even was, let alone any details about it, before the movie, but luckily the excellent sequence that opens proceedings lays all the necessary groundwork. Suddenly, the gravity of things is made all too clear and you are glued to the screen, strapped in for a compelling tale.

Basically, and it’s still a mind screw to think that this actually happened, six would-be hostages escaped the American embassy in Iran that served as the focal point of the crisis, taking shelter in the home of the Canadian ambassador. To get them out of the country safely, a CIA employee named Tony Mendez (Affleck, directing himself expertly) comes up with a daring scheme to create a fake Star Wars rip-off film, complete with fake publicity, then give the six hostages new aliases, passing them off as a film crew scouting for shooting locations.

I know, right?

As a film, Argo is positively wrought with tension. Affleck‘s camerawork and scene control places everything on a knife’s edge, the only relief coming from the sequences set in Hollywood. The juxtaposition between the flurry of industry inside jokes delivered by the excellent Alan Arkin and John Goodman and the increasingly claustrophobic ambassador household set pieces creates a unique air that is cracking to watch.

Some of the characters carry some personal baggage, which is alluded to if never truly explored. This may irritate some viewers, especially in the case of Affleck‘s Mendez role. Separated from the mother of his son, he pines for more time with him, but this subplot feels like an afterthought. Ultimately, though, the movie arguably benefits from its narrow focus. The pacing certainly does; the action moves along at a thrilling pace and culminates in a nail-devouring climax.

I continue to be mightily impressed by Ben Affleck‘s directing career. There is quite a bit of Oscar buzz about Argo, and for good reason. You can dissect it to death but the bottom line is that it’s a good thriller with great pacing and compelling subject matter that I do not recommend you miss.

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THE VERDICT

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Good:
Exceptional opening and closing scenes, great pacing, nice performances
Bad:
Personal plights glossed over
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4.5 VsI N C R E D I B L E

3 responses to this post.

  1. This has been on my ‘watch list’ for a very long time now… after reading this, its safe to say this excitement has been amplified 10 fold.

    Reply

  2. Posted by Shannon on December 13, 2012 at 11:39 am

    The scene at the airport had me so buzzed. It’s been a long time since I’ve gotten an adrenaline rush from a movie’s tension.

    Reply

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