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Argo Review

October 12, 2012 | Posted by Shawn S. Lealos
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Argo Review  

Directed by Ben Affleck
Written by Chris Terrio
Cinematography by Rodrigo Prieto
Music Composed by Alexandre Desplat

Ben Affleck … Tony Mendez
Bryan Cranston … Jack O’Donnell
Alan Arkin … Lester Siegel
John Goodman … John Chambers
Victor Garber … Ken Taylor
Tate Donovan … Bob Anders
Clea DuVall … Cora Lijek
Scoot McNairy … Joe Stafford
Rory Cochrane … Lee Schatz
Christopher Denham … Mark Lijek
Kerry Bishé … Kathy Stafford
Kyle Chandler … Hamilton Jordan

Runtime: 120 min
MPAA: Rated R for language and some violent images
Official Website

Nine years ago, Ben Affleck starred in “Gigli” with Jennifer Lopez and critics wrote off his career as dead. If you had hinted at that time that Affleck could go on to one day become an Oscar-worthy director, most people would have laughed in your face. After a promising debut with “Gone Baby Gone” and a brilliant follow-up with “The Town,” Affleck has now gone three-for-three in his directing career with “Argo.”

Ben Affleck has as good a chance to win an Oscar for this movie as anyone. How do you like them apples?

“Argo” starts off with a short history lesson, which is pretty important since this story took place over thirty years ago. The opening tells how Iran used to be ruled by a man elected in a democratic election who helped bring oil back to the citizens and gave them a sense of pride. That changed when the U.S. and Britain undertook a coup that ousted him from power and we replaced him with the Shah. The Shaw then demoralized the country, committing unspeakable and heinous acts. A revolution overthrew this man and the U.S. offered him sanctuary for his protection.

This is important because it shows why the common people of Iran hated the United States enough to charge the U.S. embassy and capture all Americans to hold them hostage until the U.S. agreed to return the Shah to Iran to stand trial for his crimes against the country, which would undoubtedly end in his execution. The U.S. refused to make a deal and the 52 American hostages were held for 444 days.

This movie tells the story of a small part of that entire ordeal, as six people escaped from the U.S. embassy as the Iranians overtook it, and sought shelter in the Canadian embassy, where they hid for weeks before the U.S. finally decided to do something about it. A CIA exfiltration expert named Tony Mendez (Ben Affleck) concocted a plan to create a fake Canadian movie, ask permission to shoot it in Iran and then secretly get the six people out of the country safely.

The first half of the movie involves Mendez and his fellow CIA operatives trying to get the plan in motion, while across the world the six Americans live in fear each day that they would be found. The pacing for this first part is very well done, with the Iran scenes shot in an almost documentary style and the America scenes shot in a clearer modern format. It also flows nice as the American scenes provides the humor that evens out the horrors of the Iran dangers.

That humor lies in the lap of John Goodman and Alan Arkin as the movie men that help turn the movie into a reality. Former award winning director Lester Siegel (Arkin) produces the film, and with John Chamber’s (Goodman) help, create an entire production that gains attention from Variety, legitimizing the fake film. Throughout the movie, the story switches back to either these two men or CIA head Jack O’Donnell (Bryan Cranston), which helps break up the tension of the story.

Speaking of tension, Affleck’s biggest accomplishment here is taking a historical situation, one that everyone knows the ending of, and making the viewer really believe it could fail. The fact is that the hostages had to make it home, but Affleck dialed up the tension and made the final scenes, in which the plan plays out, and creates a white knuckle caper. Affleck has directed made three movies, but the man is a master at his new vocation.

The acting is also solid, from top to bottom. One compliment is that no one in this movie stands out as a Best Actor candidate because everyone compliments each other so well. There is not a standout performance, like Amy Ryan in Gone Baby Gone or Jeremy Renner in The Town, and that is best for this story. These actors all work well in a tandem with each other and create the perfect ensemble cast. Sure, Arkin could pick up another nomination for his performance, but these actors worked towards a singular goal of making a great movie, and no one tried to overshadow the story.

I also have to give a ton of credit to the makeup team, and Affleck knows this as well. In the closing credits, side-by-side photos appeared with the actors next to a photo of the real people that they played. The six individuals in need of rescue were almost all identical to the people they portrayed, all the way down to a familiar face like Rory Cochrane. They also showed some iconic photos from the conflict in Iran, and Affleck and his team meticulously recreated those as scenes in his film.

For his first two movies, the Academy Awards ignored Affleck’s movies outside of supporting actor nominations. This movie will not be ignored and Affleck has as good a chance as anyone to win the Best Director and Best Film award this year. For my money, Argo is the best movie of 2012 and I recommend everyone go see this. You won’t be disappointed.

The 411: Ben Affleck has directed his masterpiece. He is now a perfect three-for-three in his directing career and Argo is nothing less than masterful. Affleck has a great chance to win his second Oscar for directing this movie, his technical team should nab a few awards as well, and this movie is my new frontrunner for the Best Film of 2012.
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Final Score:  10.0   [ Virtually Perfect ]  legend

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Shawn S. Lealos

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