Friday, October 12, 2012

A Reel Review: ARGO

By far, ARGO is director Ben Affleck’s most complete film; it is engaging, entertaining, extremely well-crafted and tells an important story in the history of our nation, and the world. For those of us old enough to remember, the Iran Hostage Crisis of 1979 was a stunning and world-stopping event, and even though those who lived through it already know the outcome, much like APOLLO 13 before it, ARGO still manages to keep you on the edge of your seat.
Tony Mendes (Ben Affleck) is a CIA agent whose specialty is extracting people out of hostile territory. Tony is tasked with coming up with a plan to extract six Americans out of a violent Tehran who have taken refuge in the Canadian ambassador’s home. Mendes best plan is to come up with a fake movie production company looking to shoot a fake science fiction movie in Iran. With the support of his boss (Bryan Cranston), Mendes recruits some Hollywood bigshots (John Goodman and Alan Arkin)  and puts together a scheme to get the hostages home disguised as filmmakers.

ARGO has a very simple plot; get the six people home. It is simple but effective thanks to the great atmosphere set on the stage by Affleck. Great lengths are taken to push the point across of just how dangerous the peril is, which makes the cover story of a fake film seem less likely to succeed. ARGO is nearly a double-feature; it spends a lot of time as an international espionage thriller under great peril, all while playing the game of making a movie in Hollywood. There are several shifts in tone, but they never jar you out of the picture and blend together nicely.
Affleck does a marvelous job in balancing the humor and lightheartedness with the danger of the situation. ARGO is saturated in film lore, the least of which are many throwbacks to the political spy thrillers which dominated the decade from which the film takes place. Besides that, Affleck does great work in building tension; making everything from a phone call to walking through an airport a blood-pressure raising experience.  There is also some excellent blending of archival footage, which makes the film seem very real and as if the events were unfolding live on network television.  It really is masterfully done.

Once he steps out from the behind the camera, Affleck takes command again with his acting. It is probably his best role; giving all the calm coolness that a CIA man would have, all while keeping that slight fear of failure just out of sight. Bryan Cranston also turns in a great role, but the film is nearly stolen by John Goodman and Alan Arkin, who are perfectly matched to their real-life Hollywood counterparts.
ARGO succeeds not only because it is in the hands of a very skilled director, but because so much thought and care was put into the setup. Once the stage was set all the many pieces and parts which ARGO is made of come together like a perfect puzzle. Ben Affleck has put together one of the best movies of 2012.



  1. Great review (as always)! I'll be doing a bit of a follow in my Blog for Saturday. I was indirectly involved in the story about the rest of the hostages! It's the only time in my life I've spent virtually the entire night in a bar! The late Bob Dennis (my photogapher)and I were in Larksville waiting for the mother of one of the hotages o get the phone call telling her that her son (and the others) had been released. She owned the bar and we got video of her call when it came through! Loved the movie on the other 6!

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