If you try to explain the plot of Ben Affleck’s latest film “Argo” to someone who has never heard of the film (and I don’t know how that could be possible), be prepared for some strange looks. It’s not every day that a film with this type of plot is able to not only be a highly acclaimed movie, but also be one of the most (if not the most) entertaining films of the year.
Ben Affleck stars as CIA operative, Tony Mendez, who is given the difficult task of entering Tehran, Iran, during the Iran hostage crisis, in order to sneak out six Americans who escaped the U.S. embassy before it was overtaken. The six Americans have been hiding in the home of the Canadian ambassador (Victor Garber), but now that he is leaving the country as well, the CIA and the Canadian government have to come up with a plan to get them out quickly and quietly.
The different plans are ridiculous, bordering on insane. Then Mendez, along with his supervisor Jack O’Donnell (Bryan Cranston), comes up with a plan that they call the best bad idea they have by far. After seeing a sci-fi movie, Mendez decides to set up a fake production of a fake movie titled “Argo”, and then enter Iran where he, along with the six Americans, can pose as a film crew scouting for locations to shoot. To help with the authenticity of this impossible masquerade, Mendez hires a Hollywood make-up artist, John Chambers (John Goodman), and producer, Lester Siegel (Alan Arkin). Together they convince Hollywood that they are making a real film, now they just have to convince Iran.
To call “Agro” an engrossing film is a severe understatement. “Agro” is two hours of non-stop adrenalin and suspense that, like its star character’s determination, never quits until the credits role. The film grabs your attention from the opening seconds when the Warner Brother logo from 1979 appears and sets the perfect tone for the film. Then, after a brief historical introduction, we’re transported directly into the action of the overtaking of the embassy. Five minutes into “Argo” you already feel as if you’re smack in the middle of the film, completely engrossed by the story, the characters and the goal of getting everyone out, and you haven’t even seen the main character.
Ben Affleck was on the bad side of every Hollywood joke for so long that I never thought he would recover, but (and that is a big but) starting with his directorial debut with “Gone Baby Gone” (2007), he has proven to be a truly mesmerizing director, with immense story telling abilities. There are already endless amounts of praise being passed around for his directorial work with “Argo”, and although he failed to earn an Academy Award nomination (and don’t get me started on that), there is no denying how mature and talented he has become. Another thing that Affleck improved upon since his last directorial movie (2010’s “The Town”) is his ability to direct himself. Thinking back over Affleck’s acting career, “Argo” stands out as his best performance by far, and really shows how far he has come in all aspects.
The supporting cast also stands out because of the believability of every actor, no matter how small the role. Alan Arkin has been nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor, and because of his easy to love demeanor and his character’s witty dialogue, he quickly becomes a crowd pleasing addition to the film. John Goodman is equally entertaining in his small but vial role as real life Academy Award winning make-up artist, John Chambers. The film takes advantage of the “film about filmmakers” situation in order to gain a few laughs, mostly from Goodman and Arkin’s Hollywood centered dialogue.
What I consider to be the best casting in the film is that of the six hiding Americans. Most movie fans watching “Argo” would find it difficult to remember any of these actors’ names, but all of them have something familiar about them that helps make them blend in easily. In order to make it believable that these characters could quickly transform into a film crew, and then would be able to hide (in plain sight), these six actors would have to be somewhat anonymous. The use of established acting names (or faces) would have made the feat seem less plausible to the audience.
Despite the Academy’s oversight for a Best Director nomination for Affleck, “Argo” has earned seven Academy Award nominations and still appears to be one of the top two or three contending for the Best Picture prize. Academy Award history is against the film, but since Affleck’s obvious snub, everyone seems to be rallying behind “Argo”, in an attempt to make amends. Also nominated from “Argo” is the screenwriter Chris Terrio, who did a marvelous job adapting the story, and is deservingly in the middle of an already overcrowded race.
One thing about “Argo” that can’t be overlooked is the film’s popularity. It has been praised by so many people that it’s hard to find someone who didn’t enjoy the film. It is a true crowd pleaser and because of the skill with which it was made by co-producers Ben Affleck, George Clooney and Grant Heslov,“Argo” has that always sought after, but rarely achieved, accomplishment of fully satisfying their audience.Back to Home for More Reviews