Monday, October 22, 2012

Argo review; a thrill ride you don't want to miss

For those of us in our 30's, the story behind the film, Argo, is totally new to us. It's the late 1970's and Iran has taken Americans at the US Embassy hostage. 6 American employees manage to escape, and seek refuge at the home of the Canadian Ambassador in Iran. What happens from there, to get them back to the United States, is unbelievable. Ben Affleck directs and stars as Tony Mendez; a CIA agent enlisted with the retrieval of the 6 hostages. Let's go.

What I liked about the film:
"The unbelievable true story"
How many times have you read that line describing a movie based on a true story? The CIA asks for Hollywood's help in creating a fake movie; so that a CIA operative can go to Iran, and rescue 6 Americans, and fly them out of there as a Canadian film crew? Yep, it may be crazy enough to work. What is the title of this fake film?  Argo; a science fiction rip off of Star Wars.  What's also interesting is, the team that successfully pulled off the mission had to keep it a secret for decades; before the case was finally declassified under President Clinton. This type of thriller is right up DIRECTOR Ben Affleck's ally.

The Director
Speaking of Director Ben Affleck, he does it again. This is the third film on his directing resume, and he doesn't disappoint. Everything from the choice in actors (I'll get to that in a moment), to cinematography, to score; are all brought together really nicely. The costumes, vehicles, backdrops, are all convincing, and help to tell a story that took place 30 years ago. Affleck did a great job of cutting in real news coverage of the events surrounding the film. He reminds the audience, just how bad the situation in Iran was; and where the current distaste for Americans may have stemmed from. I also appreciated how Affleck did not try to make any political statements, one way or another. He just told this particular story. He is a natural born storyteller and I can't wait to see more of his work in the future.

The Actors
Affleck does a fine job in the movie, and has a great character arc. At the beginning of the film, he is trying to juggle is "secret" life from that of his real one. Affleck is definitely the star, but there is a lot more help in the cast. Bryan Cranston plays his boss, and is so good! Fans of the hit tv show, "Breaking Bad", will see a much different side of Cranston. He is Affleck's boss and mentor, and looks out for him. I really enjoyed the sincerity he brought to the role. 

John Goodman and Alan Arkin add so much humor to the film. They play a Hollywood make-up artist and producer respectively. They assist the CIA in "selling" the fake movie to Hollywood press. This makes it easier to believe the 6 people to be rescued really are who they say they are. Goodman and Arkin have a chemistry that is so convincing, you have to ask yourself if the actors are friends in real life. While I will not list them all, I think it's important to note that the 6 actors/actresses playing the embassy personnel are all wonderful. They sell the anxiety and fear that the real men and women must have felt hiding in the country.

What I didn't like about the film:
Forced Suspense
I enjoyed so many aspects of this film, but I did not appreciate the forced suspense. There are a few scenes in the film that are meant to build suspense, or have us fear that the escape will not be successful, and it falls flat. I'm not giving anything away here; but there is a scene at a bazaar where the "film crew" are scouting with a local translator. One of the women to be rescued takes a picture, to appear as though she's really doing her job. A local doesn't appreciate this, and craziness ensues. I think this is a bit of a stretch and could have been handled differently. That's just one example by the way. But the climax of the film had my heart racing. So it's a small price to pay.

The Verdict:
A great story that needed to be told
I really enjoyed this film. The story, acting and directing were all great in my eyes. And one has to remember the time in the world during which this all took place, to fully appreciate it. The tension between Iran and the United States still lingers today. And without siding on either side of a political fence, the characters in which this movie is based on, can be the real spotlight. Ben Affleck has a long and bright future ahead of him if he keeps churning out great stories like this one.

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