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Argo

Argo

What she said:

He

And there you have it.  In the day between my screening Argo and my writing this review, the film has captured the coveted “Best Film” Oscar for 2013.  So, will that sway my thoughts?  No.  First, let me just say that I felt that this year’s crop of films across the board were weaker than those of previous years.  Granted, I have not seen them all, but of the ones I have there haven’t been any that were really jaw dropping or made me stand up and say, “That’s a movie that’s going to change the industry for years to come!”  Not even Argo was one of those movies.

Argo is a decent movie.  I’ll give it that.  It successfully blends a political drama, thriller, and some comedy into a two hour movie.  It’s not perfect, however.  It’s also not for everyone. 

Let me start by telling you the basics of the plot.  Argo tells the true story of a covert operation by the U.S. Government to rescue six Americans hiding out in 1979-80 Iran.  53 of their U.S. Embassy colleagues have been taken hostage, and this handful of people managed to escape to the embassy of the Canadian Ambassador.  They hide there, never even going outside, for weeks, until the U.S. can develop a plan to extract them.  Ben Affleck plays Tony Mendez, the man in charge of the rescue operation.  After considering more mainstream efforts, he hatches a plan to use the guise of a Canadian film crew to infiltrate the country and smuggle the Americans back out.  To make everything seem super convincing, he recruits a big-name film producer, Lester Siegel (Alan Arkin) to put his name behind the project. He also involves a highly reputable make-up/special effects artist, John Chambers (John Goodman).  The title of their movie project is Argo, and it’s some sort of B-level rip-off of Star Wars.  Mendez believes it’s the perfect genre to work with, because the climate and scenery of Iran would make for a perfect filming location, and thus they have their excuse for entering the country.  So the movie basically follows all these key players as the tense situation unfolds. 

Argo

The general construction of this film is very well done.  I have to say, it oozes the ‘70s and feels very authentic to the time period.  Also, this acting in this film is pretty superb.  Affleck, Arkin, and Goodman all do a wonderful job of embodying their characters.  There are moments when you can really feel the tension of the situation that they’re all facing.  The cinematography of the film is also well-done.  There’s a grittiness to the camera work, and it’s obvious that the filmmakers and set crew worked hard to recreate the actually scenery of the ordeal.  Also, I found Argo to be surprisingly funny at times.  I totally wasn’t expecting some of the humor, and that was a true delight because it helped to lighten what was a pretty heavy topic.

Now, of course there’s going to be a downside to this film.  I think for me, the weakness was that the plot was at times difficult to follow.  I think there were some assumptions made about how much the viewers would know about the ordeal going in, but being that I wasn’t even born when this went down, there were some things that I just didn’t get.  A lot of it had to do with who was who and who worked for whom.  It didn’t seem fully explained.  Fortunately, with time I was able to figure most everything out, and it didn’t sacrifice the overall storyline of the film. 

Overall, Argo was decent fare, and I can see why it’s so critically acclaimed.  To a normal person like me, it wasn’t anything to fall in love with.  I’d rather watch The Avengers five more times than have to sit through this movie again.  But, I get it; I see the appeal.

Thumbs up.

Argo

 

What he said:

He

You couldn’t pay me enough to work in a foreign country as volatile as Iran, particularly in a political position. You’ve got to be out of your mind to want to go to a place like that in that capacity. Just watching the scenes in which the Iranians stormed the American Embassy is terrifying enough. Can you imagine the terror of watching hundreds of irate people breaking into your place of work? 

Long story short, a violent group of protesters storm the American Embassy in Tehran. Their goal is to hold the employees hostage until the U.S. extradites one of their leaders, who don’t like very much. Most of the people who work at the embassy are taken hostage, but six manage to escape. They miraculously find their way to Canadian ambassador Ken Taylor’s (Victor Garber) house, where they hide out and hope to be rescued.

When the CIA gets wind of this, the immediately begin to hatch a plan to rescue the escapees. Jack O’Donnell (Bryan Cranston) brings in one of his agents due to his expertise with situations like these. You can tell he’s good at this because he points all the holes with everyone else’s plan. It seems like a lot of them simply throw ideas at the wall to see if they stick, but Mendez (Ben Affleck) is the only one that seems to realize that if the Iranian government simply does even a little bit of homework, they’ll see the very big holes in these plans. He comes up with the idea to stage a fake movie, with the 6 Americans posing as the film crew.

Argo

The CIA brings in Hollywood makeup artist and John Chambers (John Goodman) and producer Lester Siegel (Alan Arkin)to help sell this movie. The idea is that if you create as much buzz about it as possible, it will make it easier for the Mendez and the embassy employees to escape Iran. If they just go to the airport without a cover story, they’re done. So they are given new identities and backgrounds to memorize. Goodman and Arkin are quite amusing in this role. These guys definitely want to help, but also seem to get a kick out of the whole idea. I think they like playing spy. They add humor to the movie, which I didn’t see coming, but welcomed.

Argo recently won the Academy Award for Best Picture. I liked it more than I thought I would, but is this the best picture of last year? I don’t know, but it didn’t wow me, which I expect something to do when it’s nominated, let alone wins, an award. I don’t have any complaints about the film itself. It was well made. I thought it was well acted, directed, they did a good job replicating that era, and it was surprisingly funny. It just didn’t blow me away, so I have a hard time believing this was the best movie made last year. I’m very curious about some of the other nominees now. Heck, I recently saw The Hunter (review here) and I thought that was better than Argo. That movie intrigued and moved me more than I expected. Sometimes I think awards are nothing more than a product of buzz. If a movie can get enough attention of people whose opinions seem to matter, it becomes a little overhyped. A few people say a movie is good, a bunch of others agree, and you’ve got yourself an award nominee. Whereas another movie – which could be every bit as good in quality – doesn’t get the same amount of attention, and never gets its due respect as a film.
Rating: Thumbs up.

This movie review was written on March 2, 2013.

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