Argo Oct 21, 2012 18:00:14 GMT -5
Post by StevePulaski on Oct 21, 2012 18:00:14 GMT -5
John Goodman, Alan Arkin, and Ben Affleck proudly proclaim, "Argo f*** yourself!" in Argo.
Now here is a thriller I'm willing to catch in theaters. I weary so quickly of action films employing stiff quick cuts, minimal character development, and macro events taken with micro focus, and am constantly tiring of seeing characters return in a sequel to a film that shouldn't really need one. Ben Affleck's third directorial effort, Argo, is a cinematic triumph; a film so grand, so impacting, and so implausible that it's undoubtedly one of the tensest pictures of the year.
It's 1979, in the dawn of the Iranian Revolution. We open with archival footage of news clips and attack footage of the time, and are quickly presented with anarchic unrest outside the gates of the U.S. embassy in Tehran. Iranian revolutionaries are disgusted at the United States' support of Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, the Shah at the time, and begin to break into the concourse of the embassy and take most of the workers as hostages.
Lucky enough to escape are six employees, who hide out in the home of Ken Taylor (Victor Garber), the Canadian ambassador, while the State Department devises a plan to return the hostages safely to America. Brought in on a whim, CIA specialist Tony Mendez (Ben Affleck) is called to evaluate multiple plans to return the hostages, and after watching Battle for the Planet of the Apes with his son on TV, he believes he has it.
He proposes the preposterous idea that if they can convince the Iranian public that the six escapees are a Canadian film crew scouting for "exotic locations" in the country, that they could potentially meet up with the six, and return them safely. Tony quickly gets in touch with Hollywood make-up artist, John Chambers (John Goodman) and film producer Lester Siegel (Alan Arkin), who hop on board with the idea of creating a fake film, even though you can see they find the idea to be highly questionable and, above all, dangerous.
After paging through screenplays, they settle on a film called "Argo" as their fake film, a science-fiction film about God-knows-what. When asked by an executive what "Argo" actually means and how it is relevant to the film, Lester replies, with much frustration, "I don't know, Argo f*** yourself," a line that will be continuously used in the film. That's right, as surprising as it is, Argo loosens its belt and concocts a witty, sometimes uproariously funny screenplay, not afraid to dive into cheeky humor or sometimes come close to tugging at the heart-strings.
Affleck becomes fully immersed in this story, from a directing standpoint and an acting standpoint. He is barely recognizable in his role, with shaggy hair and a scruffy beard, a look that fits the macho figure himself, yet surrounded by a group of mainly unknown actors portraying the hostages, he becomes one with them, and his presence doesn't feel forced or abruptly out of place. It is simply fitting. His supporting cast, also serving as his film crew, Arkin and Goodman, show audiences why they should be credited highly, with serious performances when need be and comedy pleasantly punctuated throughout.
The story's darkest points come in the latter-half of the film, and I dare not spoil them, but I'll propose this question in the meantime that I hope some will seriously contemplate; what if you had to completely change your identity and memorize precise details that rewrote your life? What if you forgot just one detail or did not recite it fast enough, your life would be ended or in far greater jeopardy than you could imagine?
Behind the camera, this is easily Affleck's most uncompromising, incredibly entertaining piece of work; flawlessly directed, craftily edited, acted to near-perfection, written with wit and heart, and keenly glossed with the look and feel of an intoxicating and fulfilling espionage from the 1970's. The film-grain adds to the dated-effect this movie wants to achieve, and with precise detailing in the cinematography and aesthetics (right down to the original Warner Bros. logo at the beginning), it is clear that Argo is a meticulously crafted, remarkable picture filled to the brim with everything a traditional moviegoer and a full-fledged cinephile could ask for. It's one of the best films of the year.
NOTE: I strongly advise viewers to stay well into the credits. We see pictures of the real six escapees alongside their screen-counterparts. We also see scenes alongside the real-life images to prove that director Affleck, writer Chris Terrio, and the rest of the crew went to mold the film into a truly accurate piece of art.
Starring: Ben Affleck, John Goodman, Alan Arkin, and Victor Garber. Directed by: Ben Affleck.