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Thursday, October 18, 2012

Film Review - Argo (2012)

Argo (2012; Warner Bros. Pictures)
Historical thrillers are a very difficult genre to be truly successful with.  Some, like All the President’s Men and the Conversation stand out as taught historical work that were timely for their day.  However, what about movies that are giving us an account of events that occurred more than 30 years ago?  How do you make a movie tense and captivating when, it is assumed at least, we already know the outcome?  It is not an easy task, and that is why many political thrillers are long exercises in mediocrity; overproduced, all-star powerhouses with screenplays compiled from some facts but written entirely with creative license.  Argo is not one of these movies.

In fact, I would go so far as to call Ben Affleck’s latest film the best film I’ve seen so far this year.  Now, with other promising titles coming up, like Lincoln and Django Unchained, I would be hard-pressed to make this assertion with any promise that my opinion will not change before December 31st.  However, with a year featuring knockout-good action movies like Looper and the Avengers, it seemed like the more paced, cerebral drama (which is a little more my taste but I love a good fun movie as much as the next guy) may have taken a backseat in 2012.  That is, until Argo.  

Argo follows the unbelievable true story that was kept a secret for roughly two decades until Bill Clinton finally declassified the mission so that Americans can take it all in.  The insanity, the brilliance and the narrow success.  The center is an agent named Tony Mendez (Affleck) who specializes in the extraction of citizens from dangerous and volatile scenarios.  His mission: The extraction of the six remaining workers from U.S. Embassy that was overrun by the Iran Contra as anti-American sentiment among the government of Iran it its people was growing by the day.  Tony plans to throw together a fake Canadian film production in hopes of getting into the tumultuous Iran attracting as little suspicion as possible. He arrives in the country alone and must convincingly leave with six additional passengers in tow, hoping to outsmart various government goons along the way.

This is a movie with a nice large cast filled with skilled character actors and rising stars.  Minor roles are filled by the likes of Alan Arkin, John Goodman, Breaking Bad’s Bryan Cranston, and character actor Zeljko Ivanek (a personal favorite of mine).  Everyone plays their parts distinctly and the strong performances by the talented cast, along with the very funny naturalistic screenplay make this one a winner through and through.  Add to that the amazing use of real tension as the breathtaking scenes of the intrepid heroes attempting to outsmart the bureaucrats and evade violent and angry protesters by pain of death steal the show.

Argo is the kind of movie that deserves to be seen.  I know that next month millions of shallow teens will flock to theaters to see the “finale” to the Twilight “saga” and I just know that Argo’s returns will dwarf in comparison to the fiscal results of the Tween-centric insipid blight on cinema that is Twilight.  This thought makes me lose sleep at night.  Still, I take solace in the knowledge that in roughly twenty years, this movie will likely be remembered, and Twilight will hopefully be long forgotten.

Anyway, see Argo.  See it.  It is a strong film to kick off the holiday film season and a great historical drama that successfully transports us to another time and immerses us in its intrigue with great performances and a brilliant screenplay.  Look for Oscar nods to this movie, people.  It deserves it.

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