In 1979, Iranian revolutionaries storm into the US embassy, taking many hostages. However, six Americans escape and find refuge in the Canadian embassy. The CIA is given the task of getting them safely out of Iran, but there seemed to be no good ideas. The best of these bad ideas comes to Tony Mendez (Ben Affleck, who also directs) from his son’s love of sci-fi movies: claim that the six are part of a film crew in Iran to scout out locations. To pull this off, Mendez will need help from Hollywood, the president, the media and lots of luck to make them look like a real Canadian film crew.
Before you scoff at the absurdity of Hollywood aiding the CIA, remember that this is based on true accounts. Mendez was a real CIA agent, who was later awarded for his efforts in this mission and the whole operation was deemed classified until the late nineties.
Alan Arkin plays Lester Seigel, a seasoned film producer helping Mendez make his fake movie look real. He comes across as cantankerous old man, comfortable with himself, knows the ins and outs of the film industry with a hidden heart of gold. While I love Arkin’s performances, this one didn’t scream Oscar status to me. Sure, he does it well, but it doesn’t feel like anything new or exciting. However, he does deliver the best lines in the film, like always.
What the film excels at, and shows off at the end, is how accurate the film’s setting and characters are. It seems that a lot of attention was given to making the characters on screen look nearly identical to their real life counterparts over thirty years ago. Iconic photographs of the time are recreated in the film, including the moment the embassy wall was breached, a man hanging from a construction crane and the deteriorated Hollywood sign. However, the Hollywood sign was reconstructed in 1978, a year before this film’s setting begins, but I see Affleck’s idea incorporating that image to show how the film industry had lost its golden age luster and in need of reinventing.
While I appreciate this film and think that it was done to a high standard, I didn’t find myself connecting with it well. It was taught, smart, visually compelling and kept me wondering how they would pull off the next round without getting caught. There was just something missing that left me emotionally disconnected. Perhaps the film didn’t get us close enough to the six hostages, or Mendez himself. Or maybe that disconnection comes between the safe, pretend world of Hollywood and the harsh, volatile world of revolutionary Iran. Bringing the two together is so jarring, and blurs boundaries.
Argo is nominated for seven Oscars. While the film has a large following, I would not bet on it winning Best Picture. Lately the film that wins Best Picture also wins best director, and sadly (leaving much of film community shocked) Ben Affleck was left out of that race. But hey, this could break that long standing curse.
“Bad news, bad news. Even when it’s good news, it’s bad news. John Wayne in the ground six months and this is what is left of America.”
Ben Affleck was never one of my favorite actors; however, he may be in the ranks of my favorite directors with this and THE TOWN & GONE BABY GONE. ARGO was extremely well made and very suspenseful, even though the ending is already known. The editing deserves special mention, jumping back and forth between old news footage and the live action with ease and believability. Affleck deserves a lot of credit and a nomination for Best Director. I agree that something was lacking with connectivity, but it wound up being a really good, though not a great film. Unfortunately it did remind me of the idiocy of the Carter administration…we even got to hear him at the end (I say this as one who, regretfully, voted for the guy twice). Actually, hearing him was the only drawback for me in the whole film! What I’m really getting a kick out of now, though, is that, following the outrageous snub of Ben Affleck by the Academy, the film has won Best Picture in the Critics’ Choice Awards and Golden Globes (with Best Director Awards to Affleck in both), Best Film by the Producers Guild, and Best Cast Performance by the Screen Actors Guild…take that Academy ! LOL/LMAO
Thanks Ken, the editing was pretty good. I need to see more of Affleck’s directing, hope he keeps it up.
And now the award from the Director’s Guild for Affleck…it does make me wonder about the voting procedures for Academy nominations.
I did end up really liking this film; sorry you couldn’t connect with it much. I guess I see what you’re saying, but maybe just from knowing Affleck from others movies I was able to connect with him. I don’t know. I saw it awhile ago when it came out in October and I can’t wait to see it again.
I do agree with you about Alan Arkin though. I love the guy and he’s hilarious, but he’s just doing his same old song and dance here. If there weren’t so many other awesome performances that were passed over (DiCaprio and Bardem cough cough) I wouldn’t mind so much. But oh well.
I also really liked the editing as Ken did and that was one of my biggest takeaways from the film.
I was really thinking this was going to win best picture back in like November because it was about Hollywood saving the day and all, but after Affleck getting snubbed I have to agree with you. I’m just not feeling it for some reason.
Hunter, thanks for bringing up those who were passed over for their supporting roles. I still can’t believe Arkin got in over Bardem and DiCaprio.
I saw the film and reviewed it. I gave it a 4.0 out of 5. I recommended it
The film has won a number of awards, and has been nominated all over the place. But I don’t see it as the Best Film of the Year. Yet, I would not be shocked if it won.
Like the competiton, Argo is well made and has a lot going for it, as do Django, Les Mis, Lofe of Pi, Silver Linings, ZD30, Lincoln, and the two others. I believe that there is simply no clear favorite, and for this reason Argo could win, which if this were boxing – would be a split decision.
But having said all that, I do agree with this review. I didn’t think this was a fist-pump kind of film. When the plane does take off, and the racing jeeps are left on the runaway, it was more of a phew – they made it, than a fist-pumping YES!!!!
Since Lincoln, Les Mis, Django, Argo, and ZD30 are all ‘historic’, and Beasts and Life of Pi are fantasies – that leaves Silver Linings Playbook and Amour as contemporary dramatic films. I think the vote splits in the history bin – and SLP walks way with t\he O.
Well said, Mike. I like your ideas on how the voting may break down. I haven’t seen Amour yet, but I’d be happy if SLP took the win.
For me Argo is a movie that could have been great, but it ended up being only good. I’ve enjoyed this movie, but the whole time I kept thinking – how am I supposed to connect with this characters? There was no background story, not much dialogue between them, just a lot of silence and a little bit of panic every now and then.
Shoot, I thought I commented here earlier. Must not have gone through, sorry!
But I think we were on the same page here Chantal. A lot of silent panic creating the tension and not enough connection with the characters. Thanks for commenting!
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