PG Cooper: Argo Review

Posted: October 14, 2012 by Daniel Simpson (PG Cooper) in PG Cooper's Movie Reviews

Release date: October 12th, 2012

Running time: 2 hours

Written by: Chris Terrio

Based on: The Master of Disguise by Antonio J. Mendez and The Great Escape by Joshuah Bearman

Directed by: Ben Affleck

Starring: Ben Affleck, Bryan Cranston, and Alan Arkin

In the past few years, Ben Affleck has established himself as one of the most promising American filmmakers after making quality films like Gone Baby Gone and The Town. These movies have received love from both critics and audiences. I’ve been a huge fan and supporter of Ben Affleck’s directorial career and thus was highly anticipating Argo. Argo is Affleck’s first film not based around Boston criminals and in leaving his comfort zone Affleck has confirmed my belief in his talent.

Based on a true story, Argo takes place in 1979 during the Iranian revolution. The U.S. embassy in Tehran is stormed by Islamic militants who hold the Americans inside hostage. Six manage to escape and find refuge in the Canadian embassy near by.  Fearing the six will eventually be captured and killed, the CIA hatches a plan to get them out of Iran. They turn to Tony Mendez (Ben Affleck), a man who specializes in extracting people. Mendez decides to infiltrate the country under the guise that he and the six are a Canadian film crew scouting locations for a science fiction film called “Argo”.

With Argo, Ben Affleck has shown a considerable amount of growth as a filmmaker. Moving out of the streets of Boston, Argo is an international tale with a much wider scope. Instead of looking at street crime, Affleck looks at international politics and the theme of cyclical violence between groups. A good comparison could be made to Steven Spielberg’s 2005 film Munich. Though Argo isn’t as politically charged as that film, both deal with violence between two different groups without actually condemning either side. Affleck and screenwriter Chris Terrio do an excellent job addressing these themes and ideas without feeling too preachy.

While the political overtones do give the film an air of relevance, they aren’t the driving force. At its core, Argo is a thriller about one man trying to save six people. On that level, the film succeeds masterfully. Like other actor-directors, Affleck does not possess much of a visual style, but is an excellent storyteller. Argo is a wonderfully crafted film and the most tense thriller I’ve seen in a long time. This is done through careful camera work and very tight editing. The film also does a great job of capturing the feel of the late 1970’s/early 1980’s through its sets and costumes as well as some great music choices. Argo is also an extremely well-paced film. There is never a dull moment and the film transitions between the Hollywood production of “Argo” and the situation in Iran seamlessly.

A big part of Argo’s appeal is the story. The idea of using a fake science fiction film as a front to extract hostages from Iran sounds ludicrous, and yet it really did happen. It’s such a crazy story that you can’t help but be fascinated. Plus, as a film buff, it’s cool to see a film about movies saving the day. Admittedly, I’m sure the film has exaggerated some elements for dramatic purposes, but that doesn’t bother me.

Screenwriter Chris Terrio deserves credit for his excellent script. In addition to writing a tight thriller with interesting themes, Terrio fills the movie with sharp and witty dialogue. There are a lot of great lines sprinkled throughout the film and the dialogue is quotable while still feeling real. This great dialogue injects the movie with some humour used appropriately, and it also gives the characters more humanity. This ensures the film is never dry.

Affleck also deserves credit for the wonderful cast. Argo isn’t an “actor’s movie”, but the characters are all played by very talented actors who bring a lot to their characters. Affleck himself plays the lead character Tony Mendez. Mendez isn’t the most fascinating of protagonists, but he doesn’t need to be. The film isn’t about him; it’s about what he did. Besides, there’s enough there to make the audience sympathize for them and Affleck is good in the role. Alan Arkin and John Goodman are a lot of fun as Hollywood hotshots who help make the fake film. Bryan Cranston is also very good as Mendez’s higher up and the film also has a brief appearance from the great Philip Baker Hall. Several lesser known actors make up the American hostages as well as the members of the Canadian embassy. All of these actors deliver solid performances. There isn’t a weak link here; this is a very well casted film.

Argo is a fine achievement for Ben Affleck as a filmmaker. I look forward to his future work, but for now he can take pride in Argo, which is his best film yet. The film is a delightfully tense thriller which features strong performances, clever writing, and interesting themes. While it may not be as stylishly made as Moonrise Kingdom or The Master, it still stands among them as one of 2012’s best films.

Rating: A+

  1. vinnieh says:

    I want to see this one now after reading this review.

  2. ianthecool says:

    Awesome. I saw the trailer and really liked it. Glad to hear its probably going to hold up.

  3. I have no issue placing it amongst the best of 2012… it has a great shot at my top ten. But I dont know if I can place this movie above those first two. I love Gone Baby and the Town. And though this was really really solid, I do think it lacks like that one memorable scene or moment… I dont know. Maybe. It was pretty awesome. I need time with it. :D

    Nice review PG, I concur.

    • pgcooper1939 says:

      With Gone Baby Gone, I feel like that film doesn’t truly come alive until the second half. With The Town, I feel like the main glue that holds the story together is a bit hard to swallow. I really dig both films but they have major problems. I don’t have any major problems with Argo.

  4. moviebuff801 says:

    Argo is definitely Ben Affleck’s most accomplished work to date as a director. He’s becoming a bit like Clint Eastwood in a sense; a famous actor who happens to be a GREAT director. Can’t wait to see what he does next.

  5. […] PG Cooper’s Movie Reviews:  A+ […]

  6. I may be finally seeing this one this weekend.

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