Director: Ben Affleck
Writer: Chris Terrio
Cast: Ben Affleck, Bryan Cranston, Alan Arkin, John Goodman and Kyle Chandler
Studio: Warner Brothers
“Argo” follows the unbelievable true story of six Americans that have found shelter with the Canadian ambassador in Iran when the revolution reaches a boiling point. The CIA works alongside some heavy hitters in Hollywood to create a fake film production to concoct a risky plan to try and get them out of the country. For a movie that focuses on a situation that was so dire and heavy, this film comes off a bit lighter than expected.
Fake people and fake organizations with real motives all collide, and the most meaningful objects aren’t guns, they’re stamps giving a seal of authenticity. The constant subterfuge creates a tonal dichotomy of tension and farce, with all the characters spinning their own brand of bullshit in order to save lives. Argo wholeheartedly embraces the bullshit though, particularly in its second act, when Mendez brings in a Hollywood makeup artist and an influential producer to make his phoney movie look like the real deal. While the situation in Iran only intensifies the longer the Americans stay in hiding, the L.A. crew preps the rescue as if it were a human-heist movie. Titles like Mendez’s Six, or The Tehran Job come to mind.
As a director, Affleck roots this picture so much in the style of the ’70s that it feels as if we are taken right back into that era of filmmaking. From the way the picture was shot and edited to the particular camera movements he utilized, this is all ingrained in that vintage style that brings us a further sense of immersion into the story. The editing by William Goldenberg really deserves all the acclaim you can possibly throw at it, as not only does the film keep its pace fluid and, more importantly, escalating every step of the way but we are also constantly made aware of the political events that are surrounding the meat of the narrative.
Will this be the comeback film for Ben Affleck? I can only hope so, as what I’ve seen here is stunning. Affleck’s past directing work always hinted at this kind of genius. But, “Argo” is the kind of film that belong among Friedkin and Pakula’s best from the 1970s. That’s not light praise. It comes from a respect for a talented actor/director/write rediscovering what matters in his craft and applying it onscreen. If only every artist could turn it around with the level of expertise that Affleck demonstrates. Warner Brothers is looking at a potential Oscar contender here.
RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW!