Review: Argo

Directed by: Ben Affleck.

Starring: Ben Affleck, John Goodman, Alan Arkin, Bryan Cranston, Victor Garber, Tate Donovan, Clea DuVall, Scoot McNairy, Rory Cochrane, Christopher Denham, Kerry Bishé.

Rating:   Running Time: 120 mins.

Based on true events that happened in 1979, the movie starts with the U.S. embassy in Iran being overrun by a mob angry over the U.S. harbouring the country’s former ruler. The embassy staff are captured but six of them manage to escape out of a side entrance of the building, seeking refuge from the attacks and ultimately being taken in by the Canadian diplomat into his own residence. Once news of this reaches the U.S. government, CIA exfiltration specialist Tony Mendez (Ben Affleck) is brought in to a meeting where several ideas for how to extract the six are discussed, none of which are deemed believable or possible.

Later that night while talking with his son, Mendez watches the movie Battle For The Planet Of The Apes on television, noticing the location where the movie was shot, and comes up with the idea to smuggle the six out disguised as a Canadian movie crew that are in the country to scout possible ‘exotic’ locations for filming. When the go ahead is given in the absence of anything more feasible, Mendez contacts John Chambers (John Goodman), a Hollywood make up artist who has previously made disguises for the CIA, who introduces him to Lester Siegel (Alan Arkin), a producer who insists that they need things like a script to make it look legitimate. After hours of sifting through un-produced scripts, one is found that needs the kinds of locations they would find in Iran, a science-fiction movie called Argo.

This is the third movie that Ben Affleck has directed after Gone Baby Gone and The Town, both of which were solid movies but left you with a sense of something being missing. Those were both fictional dramas and Argo’s plot borders on ridiculous to a point that you would be forgiven for thinking it is also fictional, but these events really did happen. Due to the nature of the incident it remained secret until recently when the records of the mission were de-classified and released into public record.

As well as directing, Affleck takes centre stage on screen in the movie’s main role, and gives what may be a career best. It doesn’t hurt that he’s surrounded himself with a cast including great actors such as John Goodman, Alan Arkin, Bryan Cranston and Victor Garber, as well as a group of lesser known but recognisable actors in supporting roles, with Tate Donovan, Clea DuVall, Scoot McNairy, Rory Cochrane, Christopher Denham, Kerry Bishé in particular as the six trapped Americans all rising to the challenge demanded of them.

Great care and attention to detail has been taken to ensure that the movie looks and feels like it’s from the era that it’s meant to be, with the sets, props, clothing and the characters hair styles all helping to sell the setting. The way that the movie has been filmed also adds to this, being shot with actual film as opposed to using digital cameras has, intentionally resulted in a grainy quality to the image, and there are further little touches such as the studio’s opening logo being the one from back when the movie is set.

Of course, being that this is a movie and not a documentary there will have been liberties taken with certain elements (the real fake movie script was called Lord of Light), some of which people have had issues with, but any that have been taken have only made for an extremely consistent movie, at no point are you taken out of the movie by something that makes you say ”hey – that must be made up!” as can be said about some other ‘based on true story’ movies. In fact, there’s a distinct lack of over-dramatising going on throughout that’s refreshing – where other movies would drag out scenes of tension with convenient coincidences, Argo only uses these scenes without stretching them too far.

It’s also perfectly paced to a degree that the movie never seems to slow to a crawl or speed ahead too fast that it loses you, making for a thoroughly engrossing watch thanks to editor William Goldenberg. The movie cuts seamlessly between the events going on in Iran, the events going on with the CIA at Langley, and in particular with the John Goodman and Alan Arkin characters in Hollywood who inject some much needed humour to prevent the audience from breaking their cinema chairs as a result of gripping them too hard.

With Argo Ben Affleck has proved that he is a great director, enough to ensure that this reviewer will see whatever he directs next. The movie not only solidifies his proficiency behind the camera but also in front of it, with his acting abilities being the pin that could have collapsed the whole movie had it been pulled. I sincerely expect Argo to be nominated and perhaps even win one or more categories at next years Oscar awards, it’s that good.

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Posted on November 11, 2012, in Reviews and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Good review. I enjoyed this movie, but I didn’t love it like everybody else. For some odd reason, I just felt like there wasn’t as much tension going on for me because I knew how it ended, and how manipulative Affleck was starting to be. Still, it’s a good movie that will definitely get a slew of Oscar nominations.

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