“Argo” is a wonderful film that is sure to make a splash when award nominations start popping up in the next couple of months. It is completely accessible, yet completely spellbinding. When Ben Affleck first became a household name with his role in “Good Will Hunting”(and the subsequent Oscar he shared with Matt Damon for writing the screenplay), not many could have imagined that he would turn into one of the best directors of his time(especially with some of his box office missteps in front of the camera). Yet he has, following up the exceptional “The Town” with a brilliant retelling of the Iran hostage crisis that began in 1979 and lasted until 1981.
“Argo” is peppered with humor that stems from the supporting work of Alan Arkin and John Goodman. They play the Hollywood contacts of the man with the plan, a CIA agent who specializes in hostage extraction. Affleck is the lead and is all business, but he’s given the task of actually doing the dirty work and must play it straight here. Bryan Cranston appears to be playing the same type of role he’s done for his last few flicks(“Rock of Ages”, “Contagion”), but in the last half of the film he really turns it on. When he has to step it up to help out Tony Mendez(Affleck), it’s impossible not to smile as he leans on the throttle.
Why is the film called “Argo”? “Argo” is the title of the screenplay that will be used to pull off the rouge of being a film crew shooting in Iran. There’s a scene in the film where the screenplay is read publicly for the press, and this is interspersed with an Iranian woman reading a public statement about the hostage situation in her homeland. This decision works to great effect, and is a clear example of Affleck’s growing expertise in film composition. During the end credits, historical photographs shown alongside shots from the film show a meticulous level of detail in recreating the events. With each of his films, Affleck seems to be more concerned with telling the story than how the story is told. “Argo” is two hours long, but it never drags. Nothing seems like filler, and no shot or scene seems to exist merely for the purpose of stroking the director’s ego.
After Ben Affleck wowed with “The Town” two years ago, it would be easy to assume that his next film would probably be pretty solid. Not only is “Argo” solid; it’s a pretty great film, and it’s nearly impossible to keep from listing it amongst this year’s best. The film has it all in terms of emotion; it packs suspense and humor in equal measure. At the time of this writing, “Argo” is once again at the top of the box office, and it darn well deserves to be there. This is a film that deserves to be discovered long before awards show marketing puts it on the lips of the general public. This is an adult film, but it earns that description from its emotional depth, not gratuitous violence(there is actually very little violence in the film, so the squeamish should have no reservations about buying a ticket). It’s not often that an adult, R-rated film sits atop the box office, let alone for more than one week. Let’s make sure it stays there awhile. At the moment, “Argo” is the must-see film at the multiplex.