Movie Review – Argo

A part of me really was hoping that Argo was going to be a prequel to Die Hard where we got to see how Harry Ellis got to be in the position he was in at the Nakatomi Towers before being tragically killed by Hans Gruber.  A man can dream, but then again the appearance between Ben Affleck in Argo as Tony Mendez and Hart Bochner as Harry Ellis is uncanny.  But I digress and Argo itself deserves to be talked about this awards season.  A captivating tale about a hostage rescue plan that could only be dreamed up in Hollywood, but executed precisely by the CIA.  It’s the sort of story that Hollywood executives would dream of having come up with.

Argo is the retelling of the events during the Iranian hostage situation where 52 members of the US embassy were taken hostage.  While that itself would make a compelling story, the focus is on the untold, but true life rescue of six stranded American workers who were hiding out in the Canadian ambassadors house and recuse by a clandestine CIA operation that got the six people out of the country with the use of a fake movie and crew.  Ben Affleck plays the operative Tony Mendez, who comes up with the idea and implements it with the help of make-up effects artist John Chambers, played by John Goodman and movie producer Lester Siegel, played by Alan Arkin.

For me, Affleck is three for three with his directing.  Argo easily propels itself ahead of Gone Baby Gone and The Town with such a tightly paced, well acted, and tense drama about rescue operation that is so far-fetched in theory that it shouldn’t have worked given the time it took place.  This is what makes watching Argo a joy, a rare film where all the absurd pieces of a farce of a rescue are played out in front of us and it still manages to captivate us with its story and results.  Even knowing that the outcome of the rescue operation is a complete success doesn’t even diminish the tense scenes where the refuges and Mendez are almost caught by the militants.  The acting, setting, and story are all spot on with capturing the frantic struggle to get the workers out of the country with a highly dangerous extraction.

The recreation of the time that Argo took place is beautifully done in an opening scene that utilizes real footage spliced with news reels, storyboards and an exposition that brings the viewer into the fold of a Geo-political turmoil that led to the embassy being overtaken and the hostages being detained.  It’s a great way to set up a difficult story for viewers who weren’t alive during that time or even unsure of the nuts and bolts of the situation.  The painstaking details that were put into creating the tumultuous world extends not only to the historical accuracy of the setting, but also to the casting.  After the credits start to roll, Affleck showcases a side by side comparison of each of the actors and the person they are portraying.  To be honest, you have to build a time machine and get those people exact people to our time in order to hit the spot on accuracy of the casting.  Every actor and actress looks exactly like their counterpart with an eerie resemblance.  Big kudos to casting director Lora Kennedy who also worked with Affleck on The Town.

With perfect casting, the true stars in my eyes are Alan Arkin and John Goodman.  Both are playing men of Hollywood, one a uber producer and the other a makeup artist, but they end up bringing some of the best, candid comedic moments of the film which somehow lighten the mood in a such a dramatic movie.  Playing the old school Hollywood men, Goodman and Arkin end up being a power duo of sorts, both heavily invested in the outcome of the operation, but also in true Hollywood fashion, they want their fake movie/rescue plan to the best fake movie/rescue plan ever.

Affleck does shine as Mendez, a man who is both eloquent with his brevity, but also a very calculating individual.  His demeanor in the film is masked by his years of training in the CIA, not one prone to emotional outbursts and absolutely resolute in efforts to safely extract the hostages.  The moments when you see a smile or relief wash over him are few and far between, but when they happen, you smile as he earns that payoff.  It’s this sort of acting that sometimes gets overlooked by Affleck viewers, he can be a tremendous actor with the right material and Argo, being his personal project, invests himself fully into the movie.  But it’s truly the directing Affleck does that makes this a phenomenal movie and a sure contender in the awards season.

Come awards seasons, Argo is sure to be a strong contender, but my fear is that the October release for this movie will mean that it is not in the zeitgeist of the critics as the Oscar ready-made movies for November and December will be released on a large scale.  Argo sets itself apart by being both a historical film and also a highly engaging and entertaining film.  The story is the sort of dream script that Hollywood would love to have, enhancing the films appeal since it is a true life event.  I guess a big thanks is needed for the Clinton Administration for de-classifying the mission and bringing it to the public’s attention.  This monumental mission is given the utmost care and attention to detail with Affleck behind and in front of the camera.  The suspenseful nature of the film isn’t diminished at all with the known outcome of the extraction, which is a big testament to the skill of the actors, writers and director keeping us a the edge of our seats.  For me, Argo is one of the best films of the year and if you disagree, “Argo fuck yourself”.

Rating: 5 Harry Ellis’ out of 5

About Nick
I am just another blogger putting his thoughts into a website. My love is movies so most of my musings will be movie related. I work as an online marketer for an advertising company and when I am not earning a paycheck, I moonlight as a vigilante film blogger.

7 Responses to Movie Review – Argo

  1. mistylayne says:

    Nice! I am either seeing this or Skyfall or Cloud Atlas tonight. Good to know this one is worth watching. 🙂

    • Nick says:

      I would definitely pick Argo and Skyfall over Cloud Atlas. I have read the book but a lot of people and critics are just savaging the movie. Stick with a sure bet!

      • mistylayne says:

        We ended up seeing Skyfall – my first Bond film and I highly enjoyed it! I was super surprised too because I’ve seen bits and pieces of others and wasn’t a fan but this one is apparently much different than previous versions. Regardless I want to see Cloud Atlas (and now I want to read the book first, didn’t realize there was a book!), it seems totally up my alley.

      • Nick says:

        Nice! Glad you and the person you went with enjoyed the movie. The latest Daniel Craig Bond films seem to be more accessible to people who aren’t familiar with James Bond. It doesn’t seem as gimmicky with the audacious gadgets and over the top villainous plots.

        The book for Cloud Atlas is fantastic. I enjoyed who the writer was able to weave such a wide narrative in different writing styles. well worth the read.

      • mistylayne says:

        Yeah, my friend was saying they used to be wayyyy more misogynistic (because I mentioned how I thought there would be more women in it, lol) but there were some deep layers in this one that left me impressed and visually it was just stunning. The opening credits? I could watch those for days on END.

        And EXCELLENT. I love to read so I love that I can read it before I watch it. 🙂

      • Nick says:

        Yeah the whole Fleming series was very misogynistic. Women were more or less some arm candy, sexually suggestive creatures instead of fleshed out characters. I mean when they were named like Pussy Galore, Holly Goodhead, and Xenia Onatopp, it doesn’t paint the best picture.

        This ended up being about an actual relationship between M and Bond, which has always been surface in the books as just the caretaker and agent. We saw a lot more about what he means to M and vice versa.

        The opening credits for all the bond movies are fantastic and should be watched for that alone

  2. Pingback: Movie of the Day – Argo « Another Plot Device

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