Argo Directed by: Ben Affleck Cast: Ben Affleck, Bryan Cranston, Alan Arkin, John Goodman Running Time: 2 hrs Rating: R Release Date: October 12, 2012
PLOT: A CIA specialist (Affleck) devises a wild plan to sneak out six Americans during the most tense moments of the Iranian Revolution.
WHO'S IT FOR? This movie is definitely for those who like a solid mix of Hollywood comedy and drama, as told through a fascinating true story you can't believe you haven't heard of before. And if the horror of Sinister sounds like too much, Argo has plenty of natural tension to keep you on the edge of your proverbial seat (unless you are standing).
EXPECTATIONS: The remarks about Affleck being a surprisingly solid director are behind him. Now he just needs to deliver with the high bar he has raised for himself, and a curious true story might help him do that.
Ben Affleck as Tony Mendez: When looking at this performance without the connections Affleck makes to himself with it, it is an understated one, with not many visible emotional scenes; like his work in The Town, it's stable, and certainly believable. Yet outside of the events that he is placed in, Mendez isn't that unique of a character. He is a hard-worker who has become detached from family, as most CIA guys in the movies seem to be. We are even introduced to him as he wakes up face down in his own filth, which is the same way we meet Kevin James in his own movie this weekend, Here Comes the Boom. More interesting than Affleck's portrayal of this character is the attention that Affleck is bringing to himself the artist by playing the character, as the specialness of this role is boosted by its immediate meta qualities. Score: 7
Bryan Cranston as Jack O'Donnell: Of all the other actors here, Cranston is good for a couple of jokes, and some tough support to Mendez. For the most of the movie, however, Cranston isn't put to too much work, his acting here is like a desk job in comparison to the fun being had by Arkin and Goodman, or the nerves being quietly conveyed by Affleck. Score: 6
Alan Arkin as Lester Siegel: With this lighter role that introduces hefty comic relief to an extremely tense story, Arkin is a slick embodiment of the bullsh*tting Hollywood producer. Adding his highly entertaining charm to any scene he touches, Arkin continues to radiate some warmth as a seasoned curmudgeon (like with Little Miss Sunshine, etc.) Score: 7
John Goodman as John Chambers: This is a role that gives Goodman something smart to do with his jolly potential, a simple character that the actor still finds some color inside, especially when working opposite Arkin. He's a good mentor to Affleck's Mendez character, and an even better partner in comic relief with Arkin, who together make for the year's most entertaining duos Score: 7
TALKING: The introduction in Argo is long-winded and feels a little overcomplicated, but it is worth keeping up with, for the sake of understanding some intriguing history. Some of Argo's most entertaining moments take place in Hollywood, in which producers have a battle of wit and bullsh*t that are used to reflect the difficulty of trying to negotiate with people, etc. Score: 7
SIGHTS: Argo explodes with an extensive scene of a chaotic uprising at the U.S Embassy in Iran, captured with handheld cameras. As the end of the credits are keen to point out, this is a movie that aims to be as authentic to the true events as possible, especially in terms of costume design on the characters, etc. Score: 7
SOUNDS: Keeping within Hollywood bounds in terms of score, Argo has some musically sappy moments, with long singular notes noticeably carried out to mushy extents. (If anyone is keeping track, this score certainly doesn't leave an emotional mark like Gregson-Williams' did with The Town back in 2010). For period measure, songs by Led Zeppelin and Van Halen are thrown into the mix. Score: 6
BEST SCENE: That has to be the most intense movie pitch ever in the airport, right?
ENDING: This is a conclusion that certainly ties up this chapter in history, but it also admits to the audience that a larger number of the hostages in a more immediately threatening situation were simply forgotten about in the scope of this adapted story. It's a little frustrating, especially with those hostages' fate lingering over the rest of the movie with scant acknowledgment from the script.
QUESTIONS: How much does the rushing of the "Argo" project reflect the making of Argo, considering that this film was only put together in about two years? How much of a passion project is this for Ben Affleck? Exactly what scenes were changed for dramatic purposes? And why did the US take in the shah in the first place? This was the question I had throughout Argo that I did not want to have to look up on Wikipedia by the end of the movie, but Affleck left me no choice.
REWATCHABILITY: Even just thinking about it, some of the events of Argo are tense, promising that a second viewing would likely have the same tensity as the first. So yes, this makes me look forward to the probably inevitable re-view or (re-re-view) that is going to come during award season.
A jolting mix of Hollywood mind-games and political chaos, Argo makes for a thrilling personal expression from director Affleck as he parallels the high stakes of his character's mission to that of the many pieces that must fall into place for any Hollywood production to see the light of day. Though working with the crutches of type characters, tried (but not tired) clichés, and a negligently incomplete historical background, Argo sees productive use of Affleck's desire to be a solid Hollywood storyteller, and to consistently reinvigorate all the components we might expect to see in a Hollywood film, giving his third movie a special inspiration with its meta factors. Argo is most enthralling when its about an ambitious man with a crazy and elaborate plan trying to get something made at the cost of all of his nerves. Sucked into Affleck's rigorous tale, we feel that incredible tension as well, our own sanity invested in the need to see his project get off the ground.
FINAL SCORE: 7/10