|Rating: The Good – 78.4
Duration: 120 mins
Director: Ben Affleck
Stars: Ben Affleck, Bryan Cranston, John Goodman
Director and star Ben Affleck hits three for three with a pitch perfect account of how a CIA agent extracted six American citizens trapped in Iran after the 1980 revolution with the “best bad idea” that he could come up with. Based on actual events, Argo does something that not many films get to do. It gives us the real scoop on a well known yet relatively recent moment in history by telling a story so inherently dramatic and daft that we’d scarcely believe it was possible if told as outright fiction. Yes, it takes some liberties here and there but the essential story of US citizens being “exphiltrated” from Iran disguised as a Canadian film crew who were ostensibly there to shoot a science fiction epic is entirely true. In fact, this story would almost write itself if allowed but the end result would probably be nothing more ambitious than a wacky comedy. Thankfully Affleck and writer Chris Terrio don’t let it and they instead look deep into the people and events of the time to find the genuine heroism, intelligence, and downright bravery that in reality defines a tale like this. Nothing here is glossed over from the emotional baggage of Affleck as the agent with the crazy plan to the tensions, fear, and mistrust of the Americans in hiding and the Canadian ambassador who is hiding them. And yet somehow Affleck manages to stitch it all together with the unerring momentum of the best thrillers.
Shot in the style of the 1970’s thriller (à la Fincher’s Zodiac) Argo is already working our subconscious recognitions even before a word of dialogue is uttered. The signature palette and textured production design of the era brings us back to a simpler time when films worked because of their craft and not because a glossy public relations campaign brainwashes its audiences into thinking it works. It’s a nuanced directorial effort as Affleck moves the drama forward with a soft pace and controls the tension through intelligent framing, cutting, and general discipline as opposed to the big score and hyperactive editing used by so many of today’s paler counterparts.
The actors are first class with John Goodman and the great Alan Arkin excelling as the big shot Hollywood producers called in to make the fake movie project look real. Of the trapped Americans, Clea DuVall and Scoot McNairy do particularly well in capturing the essence of being constantly caught between fear, expectation, and guarded hope for months on end. However, it’s fair to say that Affleck turns in the most substantial acting turn. Yes, he has more to play with but as the dust settles on the final scene there’s a definite sense that he did something substantial here. It’s not a big performance nor is it overtly intense but it’s weighty nonetheless and he puts you in the character’s shoes.
The result of all this is an enthralling and utterly gripping edge-of-your-seat thriller that rewards true movie lovers for the crap we’ve had to sit through as the genre has been badly approximated for nearly two decades now. Moreover, it’s a marker laid down by a hot and young(ish) talent that Hollywood has a new director to whom we can pin our hopes.© Copyright 2013 Derek D, All rights Reserved. Written For: movieshrink.com