With Argo, I have completely forgiven Ben Affleck for all the bad movies he’s made before, like Armageddon, Pearl Harbor, and yes, even Gigli. Affleck’s comeback is simply amazing. I don’t think anyone has had one this big since Marlon Brando came back with The Godfather.
And how did Affleck do this? By finding a new talent in directing. I’m not sure whether I’d call him the next Martin Scorsese but he’s undoubtedly one of the best actor/directors in the filmmaking business, perhaps THE best. And with Argo Affleck further shows off his skills. It’s a fantastic movie that manages to rise from the typical Hollywood thriller. Once the movie ended, the entire audience started to applaud and many stayed through the credits, something which I’ve never seen happen.
Argo starts back in 1979 during the beginning of the Iranian hostage crisis. As many Iranian protesters start rushing into the US embassy, six members sneak out and find refuge in the Canadian ambassador’s house. Fast forward to 1980, and the CIA discovers about these six guys and learn that the Iranians are slowly putting back a shredded book with all the people working at the embassy. Sooner or later they’ll discover that six are missing and go out looking for them.
The CIA tries pitching a bunch of ideas to get the hostages out, including one using bicycles to get them to the border. But CIA extractor Tony Mendez (Affleck) comes up with a plan. Why not pretend to be making a fake movie and going to Iran for location scouting?
Mendez goes to Hollywood where he meets up with John Chambers (John Goodman), an Oscar winning makeup artist. Mendez is hoping that Chambers can help him put together a fake movie project, and soon Chambers calls upon Lester Siegel (Alan Arkin), a big time Hollywood producer. They soon find a script for a sci-fi film called “Argo,” which has scenes that take place in the Middle East. Before long Mendez gets this project rolling and heads to Iran to help the six.
You may go thinking that Argo sounds like a bad, unbelievable thriller, but the story is actually true. The events of Argo were declassified in 1996 by President Clinton and the movie is based off a selection of the book The Master of Disguise and a magazine article “The Great Escape.”
Still, this material could be handled badly in the wrong hands but Affleck manages to succeed with it. The film never loses its tension and its paced remarkably well. Affleck manages to keep the audience at the edge at their seat without faking out. The scenes in Iran in particular are very climatic.
The movie’s greatest strength is its cast, which may be the best I’ve seen so far this year. The movie has called upon many of my favorite actors, not just John Goodman and Alan Arkin but also Bryan Cranston (of Breaking Bad) and Kyle Chandler (of Friday Night Lights). Arkin’s character adds much of the comic relief in the movie and is the strongest performance in the movie. Cranston plays the CIA chief Jack O’Donnell who approves of Mendez’s project and really fits the role. Goodman is an actor who I like in pretty much every movie, and this is no exception.
The story could really bit split into two parts. The first half focuses more on Mendez’s creation of the movie. The movie uses its comic ton to mock Hollywood and the people in it. Siegel wants the movie to look real so he puts together everything a real movie would have: posters, storyboards, adoring fans in costumes. He even puts on a script reading to have the movie leaked into the press to trick the Iranians into thinking it’s an actual movie.
The second half is in Iran, which is transitioned very strongly. Mendez meets up with the six and makes them fake identities for being in the film crew, such as the director, cinematographer, screenwriter, etc. This half holds the tension that balances the films so well. The climax of the movie is well done and perfectly executed.
To sum up my review, Argo is one of the year’s best. With a strong ensemble and capable director, Argo is the strongest major studio film I’ve seen for quite a while. After this, I’m excited to see Affleck’s next movie.