ARGO

ARGO starts as a historical drama, transitions to a satirical comedy about the outrageousness of Hollywood and ends up a political/hostage thriller. And while that sounds like it could be a mess, it is far from it. Ben Affleck handles it all with skill and talent. A lot of people loved THE TOWN, Affleck’s last movie. A lot of people didn’t. I loved it and I thought it showed a lot of potential for Affleck as a director. Potential realized! This is a great movie. In case you’ve missed the ads, ARGO is based on a true story. Six Americans escaped to the Canadian ambassador’s home when Iranian “students” took over the U.S. Embassy in 1979. They remained there in hiding for weeks. But the Iranians started becoming suspicious and they had to get out or be killed. After several bad options were floated, the CIA came up with the “best bad option” they had. A fake film, and passing the Americans off as members of a Canadian film crew scouting locations for the movie “Argo”. Affleck also stars as the CIA operative Tony Mendez. John Goodman is his Hollywood contact and Alan Arkin is the producer they go to to make their fake movie believable. Goodman and Arkin are fabulous. Affleck is good (his directing better than his acting). Bryan Cranston proves he is a great actor as Affleck’s CIA boss, especially in one of the penultimate scenes. ARGO has intrigue, comedy, drama and thrills. That it is all basically true (or true-ish) makes it even more fantastic. I would like to see Affleck direct a movie that he does not star in, because I think that is his best future. I could pick a lot of nits, like does anyone really believe Affleck as a hispanic CIA operative? But that is all minor stuff. ARGO is one of the best movies I have seen this year. — Alan Yudman

A flag-waving, crowd-pleasing entertainment that shows what Hollywood high-gloss and a vivid cast, guided by a director who knows how to tell a story, can do. Essentially a “Mission Impossible” episode with Ben Affleck as Peter Graves, it's comfortably old-fashioned, unafraid to be funny, and very self-confident. That swagger extends to the movie's uncomfortably effective portrayal of Iran and Iranians as, well, batshit crazy. That's borne out by historical record and made urgent by the current nuclear showdown; here it comes with maybe just a whiff of propaganda (for which I would not fault Affleck). A movie with a large cast sparkles when everyone delivers, and this is ARGO's biggest strength. John Goodman and Alan Arkin are terrific together; Bryan Cranston of course can't be in too many movies; there's a cute Adrienne Barbeau cameo and two funny, not-much-longer moments, one with Richard Kind, the other with Philip Baker Hall; the hostage ensemble does a wonderful job of conveying their growing terror; and Ben himself is solid without being a stick. (Although there is one hilarious beefcake shot of him that recalls the 1998 GQ cover.) Much of the suspense is of the car-won't-start-as-the-bad-guys-are-rushing-up and the jeeps-on-the-runway-trying-to-stop-takeoff variety. But you definitely get caught up in the escape in this possibly political escapist thriller. — Jeff Schultz

One thought on “ARGO

  1. Affleck does a nice job with his direction, but this is definitely not his strongest feature despite being his most ambitious. It’s entertaining, well-acted, and fun to watch, but not as tense as it should have been. Good review Alan.

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