So picture this: in 1979 Iranians storm the U.S. Embassy in Iran and hold everyone inside hostage for 144 days. 6 lucky men and women escape before the hostage crisis strikes the media, and they take shelter in the Canadian Ambassador’s house. In order to return to the United States, the only option the U.S. Government has is to send a CIA agent to Iran, find the six Americans at the Ambassador’s house, gather them together and escape by pretending to be a Canadian film crew looking for places to shoot a science fiction film called Argo. May sound unbelievable and one of the most awkward stories to tell ever. So where is the hook? Argo, strange as it may be, is based on real events. Yes, (almost) everything portrayed in this film really happened, and when watching this movie, it gets to the point where you have to question yourself and say: “Did this really happen?” The tagline “Based on True Events” is thrown around a lot these days, but in this case, it is real, and it is portrayed in such a manner that amazes, dazzles, and sizzles.
Argo has been receiving much Oscar buzz after early critic screenings, much due to the nature of the story, (which the Academy typically loves), but also due to the fact that Ben Affleck has taken the director’s chair. Affleck has had an up and down career as far as acting goes, with some roles making him a star yet other roles massively downgrading his status as an actor. The same cannot be said relating to his directorial efforts. Affleck made his directorial debut in 2007 with Gone Baby Gone which, to many people’s surprise, became an instant hit. It may not have been a blockbuster at the box office, but Affleck was largely credited with a certain understanding of the director’s responsibility. Then, in 2010, his second directorial effort, The Town, which starred Affleck himself, was released to wide critical acclaim, some even calling it better than his first effort. I personally like The Town more and it was one of my favorite movies of 2010. So, how can a man who has had such a struggle with an acting career direct two great movies to start off his career? The answer may remain unknown, but all I can say is mark him 3 for 3, because Argo is certainly one of the best movies of this year and may be Affleck’s best film yet.
Argo is a thriller, but you may be surprised to hear that it is actually surprisingly hilarious. Yes, this movie pumps out more laughs and dark humor than many of the so-called “comedies” this year. Take the never aging John Goodman for example. He provides consistent laughs and lots of good one liners. But Alan Arkin deserves the praise here. Almost every word out of that man’s mouth demands bursts of laughter. In the dramatic roles, Ben Affleck is superb, offering one of the best performances of his career, and Bryan Cranston does strong work as well. The cast is great all around, not even one performance worth complaining about.
Much like Ben Affleck opened The Town with the bank heist, he opens Argo even more thrillingly with the adaptation of the overtaking of the U.S. Embassy which is written, acted, and filmed so well it alone could receive an Oscar nomination. The third act of this film is nothing short of edge-of-your-seat thrilling, and it is one of the most tense and well handled scenes I have seen all year. This is a film for film lovers. In a way like Martin Scorsese’s Hugo last year, Argo relates to many films and the crew of films made in its time period. It also portrays just how influential the film industry can be in any situation.
Defining himself as one of Hollywood’s absolute best, Ben Affleck succeeds, once again, with Argo. This is a tense, nail biting thriller with some great sight to screen adaptations and some of the best performances and camerawork I have seen all year. Argo is without a doubt Oscar worthy (for Best Picture and Director) and it is, maybe, the best film I’ve seen in 2012.
Run Time: 121 mins
Rated: R for language and some violent images
Starring: Ben Affleck, Bryan Cranston, Alan Arkin, John Goodman, Taylor Schilling, and Victor Garber
Writer(s): Chris Terrio
Director(s): Ben Affleck