It’s pretty early to tell, but I’d bet that Argo (2012) will receive its fair share of Oscar nods. Though it didn’t necessarily blown up the box office at first (about $20 million in the opening weekend), word is spreading about the pure genius embedded within this film and it topped the box office for this past weekend.
The film is based on the true story of the CIA extracting six American fugitives during the revolutions in Iran. I won’t delve into how true to the story or how inaccurate the so-called ‘facts’ are because, let’s face it, this is a movie that states it is based on a true story. The overall premise is true, and that’s enough for me.
But I digress.
Agent Antonio ‘Tony’ Mendez (Academy Award Winner Ben Affleck of The Town) has been tasked to come up with an idea to get these six Americans out of Iran. They’ve fled to the house of the Canadian Ambassador, Ken Taylor (Victor Garber of Titanic), who has kept them safe for quite some time. Mendez comes up with a plan to pose as a Canadian filmmaker going on an exotic location scout along with his Canadian film crew (the American fugitives). Incorporating the help of makeup artist John Chambers (John Goodman of Monsters, Inc.) and producer Lester Siegel (Academy Award Winner Alan Arkin of Little Miss Sunshine), Tony creates Argo, a science-fantasy film complete with cast, production poster, and write-ups in the newspaper. But with time running out and Iranian rebels closing in, Mendez has little time to grant safe passage for the six fugitives, who are skeptical of his skill and untrusting of his willingness to get them out of the country alive.
This is the third feature film Affleck has directed, with both garnering an Oscar nomination (Best Supporting Actor nomination for Jeremy Renner in The Town; best supporting actress nomination for Amy Ryan in Gone Baby Gone) for the first two films, but the direction in Argo is truly something special. The events are molded together in a way that keeps you on the edge of your seat. The heart-pounding events that ensue regarding the heightening revolution coupled with the urgency of securing six American citizens puts you right in the middle of the action. I found myself looking over my shoulder once or twice. Affleck has really outdone himself in this one and I’d be surprised if the Academy didn’t recognize him for it.
Even still, his directing aside, Affleck’s acting was also phenomenal. With such an epic story it is easy to present our main character as a flawless hero who is simply there to save the day. This just isn’t true in Argo. Affleck brings humanity to his character that not only enhances his strengths, but outlines his weaknesses as well. His doubts aren’t just for a moment; they are throughout. He’s not sure whether or not the rescue will be a successful one and he shows it. This makes him an extremely dynamic character that we really do want to cheer for. Goodman and Arkin also have interesting roles in this film. They provide most of the comic relief that we are graced with, but even still, there is a dread at the central core of their characters. They aren’t just static figures sitting in the midst of all the chaos. They are aware of the situation at hand and that the lives of six (even seven) American citizens are in their hands and it worries them. They’re human, not just characters in a film.
This film is nothing short of phenomenal. Sure, political thrillers based on true stories aren’t necessarily everyone’s cup of tea, but this film delves into more than that. We are presented with the lives of American, Canadian, and Iranian citizens during a time of unrest and violence. We see the effects of the pressure on the people in this film. We care about them, we hate them, we want them brought to justice, and we want them rescued. And I can’t recall a slow point in this film when I actually sat back in my seat and regained my breath. Argo is definitely a film that you do not want to miss. Show times can be found here.
Little Rock Movie Examiner’s rating: 5 out of 5 stars
MPAA rating: R
Minimum Age Group: 17+
Sexuality: a reference to pornography
Language: plenty of profanity; including about 25 F-bombs
Drugs/Alcohol: drinking, and smoking, as a social norm
Violence: central theme of the movie deals with the Iranian revolution; there is a fair amount of violence, but most of it is only mildly shown
Themes/Issues: Political revolution
Similar titles coming out soon: Killing Them Softly (November 30), Zero Dark Thirty (December 19), The Impossible (December 21)
Other films you may like: Munich (2005), Syriana (2005), The Last King of Scotland (2006)