During the Iranian hostage crisis, a CIA specialist concocts a risky plan involving the cover of a fake movie production to free six Americans who have found shelter at the home of the Canadian ambassador.
Ben Affleck both directs and stars in Argo, a riveting thriller about the craziest secret plan to ever be declassified. Affleck didn’t keep much street cred after his Good Will Hunting heyday, pumping out movies like Phantoms, Gigli, and Reindeer Games, but in the last few years, he has rocketed to awesomeness by getting behind the camera. Gone Baby Gone and The Town established him as a real talent, and Argo cements this.
To be a bit critical, this Hollywood movie doesn’t do anything new in terms of the thriller or espionage genre, however, it plays deftly within those established conventions, without losing sight of the humans at the centre of the story. It moves quickly and builds tension to a nail-biting climax, filled with both new acting talent, as well as established heavyweights like Alan Arkin and John Goodman. Fans of Breaking Bad will love Bryan Cranston, and Affleck keeps his own acting understated enough to pull off a good leading man role.
The movie looks amazing --- it has a grainy, washed out texture that not only reminds you of the news footage he blends in seamlessly, but also of the films of the 70s themselves (think 3 Days of the Condor or All the President’s Men). I have to point out the set and costume design especially: whenever Hollywood makes a ‘1970s (and 1980s)’ movie, it looks like the people are all wearing wigs and costumes. Affleck’s design team has captured the 1970s really well, which really helps to keep your brain in the reality of the film.
Argo isn’t afraid to be funny either, and tension always works best with a side of laughs. The political/historical parts are well explained, but never become tedious --- and conversely, the action scenes are exciting and never take away from the braininess of the film. Like the best films of the 70s, it isn’t just mindless entertainment, but it works to entertain --- it’s like a ‘movie’ had ‘sex’ with a film and Argo is their baby.
5 Dorks out of 5 on the Geek-o-Meter. Argo is one of the best movies of the year, and Oscar-bait to be sure. And I hope Hollywood takes notice, because this is what commercial films used to be before ‘Hollywood’ became a dirty word to movie geeks. It goes to show that you don’t need 3D and a bunch of lame gimmicks to put asses in seats if you have a well told story.
Follow Craig Silliphant, The Movie Geek on Twitter at @craigsilliphant