Argo (2012) (R)














When "Argo" starts, it starts fast and furious with nothing held back. It's violent but not Scorsese and it's thrilling but not Hitchcock. It's the work of a very gifted but perhaps not revolutionary director, Ben Affleck.
When six people sneak out of the U. S. Embassy while it was being taken hostage, they become fugitives in Iran. They flee to the Canadian Ambassador's house where they find refuge for a little while. But there's still a problem: they need to get out of the country. They can't wait here forever. The Iranians aren't stupid and they will figure out sooner or later that six people have disappeared.
Tony Mendez, a CIA agent who is an expert at extracting people from rough conditions, is bombarded with bad ideas. He has to sort through them or pick one of his own that will help the Americans get out of Iran alive.
As portrayed in the trailer, he opts to choose to pose as a film crew shooting on location. Their film is a sci-fi movie and they need the exotic locations of Iran to make it look plausible.
"Argo" is two parts suspense, one part comedy. While Tony is looking for a fake producer and a film studio that will back this fake film, he meets with make-up legend John Chambers, whose work is best exampled on the movie "Planet of the Apes". John helps him navigate his way through Hollywood where he finds his producer, Lester Siegel.
The jokes come from Lester, who is a foul-mouthed old man with no sense of tact. He says what's on his mind. Alan Arkin plays Siegel who is very reminiscent to his last big role as the grandfather in "Little Miss Sunshine".
My personal favorite was John Goodman as John Chambers, I feel like he does exactly what the role needs in order to make it work.
The script is good, in that the dialogue is fantastic and real. But I was unsatisfied with the actual execution of the suspense parts. It just felt too convenient. Events lined up so nicely to produce a faux feeling of anxiety and then (of course) they worked out at the very last second. It felt too manipulative of the actual facts; recall that this is a movie based on a true story.
The supporting cast is all very good, including everyone who plays a "houseguest" the term they use to describe the six that fled the Embassy. Bryan Cranston plays Jack O'Donnell and every scene he's in has the actor's great talent helping it along.
Ben Affleck is good as Tony Mendez but it seemed a little selfish to cast himself as the lead. I would have picked someone else.
Now, don't get me wrong, "Argo" is a good film. I read an article that placed "Argo" as the 11th best Best Picture winner of all time. It's really not that good. In this list, they had it placed over great works like "One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest" and "Amadeus", "Slumdog Millionaire", "Platoon", and "The Silence of the Lambs"—even "Schindler's List".
I don't understand what all the fuss is about, because while "Argo" is good it's not spectacular. I wish that a little more thought had been put into it because I felt that with a little tweaking it could have been great and it fell short by just a little bit.
I'm one of the few people that seemed okay with Affleck being excluded in the director's category of the Academy Awards. The five nominees (with maybe the exclusion of Spielberg) crafted intensely artistic films that were all more deserving of the award. Affleck does a solid job but, for me, his work is not as poetic and haunting as the five nominees. I'm glad that Ang Lee won the Oscar because I feel like he deserved it more than anyone else.
"Argo" is a thoroughly enjoyable movie, some moments shine and other moments are too cliche for me.

Score: 3 and a half stars out of 4

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