Argo is an entertaining, tense, and intelligent piece of filmmaking. For every one of my little hang ups I found with the film there were two or three positive things that quickly popped up and made me forget them. A film that is well acted and put together with the precision you would expect out of a top notch CIA thriller.
In 1979, six Americans escaped the U.S. embassy in Iran after it had been stormed by a deadly mob of protesters. They quickly were taken in by the Canadian Ambassador living in Iran and went into hiding. With all the political unrest and heavy anti-American sentiment in the Middle East the clock was ticking on their lives. If the Iranian police found them, they’d surely be killed. That’s where the CIA’s exfiltration expert Tony Mendez (Ben Affleck) comes in. After the white house offers up ultra-conservative rescue plans with minimal risk of political capital and minimal chances the hostages would ever make it out of Iran, Mendez pitches the “best worst idea” of all the plans. He proposes that he go in himself posing as a movie producer and bring the six Americans out as a Canadian film crew. As preposterous as his pitch is, its green lit and Mendez lays the ground work in the states before heading to Iran. He seeks out monster movie make-up artist John Chambers (John Goodman) and mouthy Hollywood producer Lester Siegel (Alan Arkin) to help build a legitimate looking front of a “turnaround” science fiction production entitled Argo. There are some really funny moments with Goodman and Arkin and I would’ve liked to have seen Argo stick with more of the dark comedy that was really working for me. But once Mendez lands on Iranian soil the film quickly gets serious and stays there. Abruptly leaving Chambers and Siegel behind. That shift in tone really annoyed me at first, but once the rescue mission gets into full gear you’ll realize that Affleck, the filmmaker really continues to shine as a story teller and a gifted craftsman. Based on true events, Argo is an interesting piece of American history that needed to be shared. Even though talents like Arkin, Goodman, Bryan Cranston, and Phillip Baker Hall (He’s in literally one scene) seemed to be underutilized and get lost in the shuffle, Argo succeeds as a thoroughly entertaining movie that keeps you wrapped up until the pulse-pounding end. Thanks to charasmatic performances and Ben Affleck and his filmmaking team of technical virtuisos, Argo starts the awards season off with an enthralling bang. The editing in this movie deserves special attention. William Goldenberg (Heat, Seabiscuit) cuts the film with a magician’s touch.
Ben Affleck has proven over and over that he is anything but a one-trick-pony when it comes to directing. Going through somewhat of a resurrection from being a not so respected actor to the heir apparent to actor/directors like Eastwood and Sean Penn, Affleck looks more and more talented and his works continue to get better. Think about the progression from Gone Baby Gone to The Town and now Argo . He’s off to a great start and I can’t wait to see more. Justice League perhaps?