See, Star Wars really did save people’s lives.
The movie is on the true story of a secret 1979 CIA mission during the Iran Hostage crisis in which six diplomats are rescued through a bizarre extraction plan involving a fake Hollywood film crew scouting locations for a sci-fi film named “Argo.” Ben Affleck stars as Tony Mendez, the real-life CIA exfiltration expert who came up with the idea in the first-place and has to find the strength and courage to go through with it.
Believe it or not, that silly-ass plot synopsis up there is a real-life account on a secret CIA mission that took place during 1979 to 1980 and may have you think, “just how the hell did the government trust Hollywood with saving the lives of six people?” Well, the truth is that Hollywood is good for many things, and not only is saving the lives of six people one of them, but reviving Mr. Ben Affleck’s career as well.
As director, Ben Affleck is basically three-for-three (Gone Baby Gone and The Town are his two other flicks), but this one is slightly different from those other ones as he is actually stepping out of his friendly-streets of Bawhstan, and upping his game by focusing on something bigger, and a lot larger-scale than from what we usually expect from this guy. The look and feel of this movie just put me right into a late 70’s/early 80’s vibe that not only set me in the right-mood, but never rang a single false-note to me whatsoever, even with all of the goofy mustaches, cars, and hair-do’s running around all-over-the-place.
But what really came as a total shock to me is how Affleck was not only make me feel like I was exactly right there with him in America during this time-period, but also made me feel like in the chaotic shit-hole of Iran during this time as well, and damn, was it freakin’ scary. Right from the start, we are put in this area of Iran that is just full of chaos and on the verge of collapsing, and Affleck shows this perfectly by splicing together his footage, with actual-footage taken at this time to create a realistic, if even scarier view-point of the setting where our main-story takes place in. It’s not only great in it’s realistic/very detailed look, but also how we are able to draw the similarities between the Middle East and the West’s relationship with one another, to then, and how almost nothing has changed whatsoever in the thirty-plus years since this whole “Argo” mission went down.
However, it’s not all about making a point and showing off the politics with Affleck, it’s more about the whole mission itself and that’s where most of the fun of this movie came from. The first hour or so where we are left following Affleck as he tries his damn near hardest to make this fake-movie every bit of legit as he can, is the most entertaining aspect of this whole movie, not just because it takes a lighter, and slightly, more humorous approach than the rest of the film, but because it shows you just how hard it is to actually get something made in Hollywood, regardless of whether it’s the next masterpiece or not. But, all of the hootin’ and holler soon starts to go away once the real plot of this movie kicks in, and that’s where I really started to feel the tension go up my spine and get the goosebumps working. This is where Affleck shines the most, by showing how capable he is of making you sweat your ass off, with every single, tense second that goes by. It’s worked in his other two films, and it sure as hell works here but not as perfectly.
The reason why the whole suspension of this film doesn’t work as well as Affleck’s last, two movies, is because we already know the story going on and if you haven’t already known, chances are, you’re going to be able to tell how it ends. Then again, that’s sort of the basis for all movies out there but when you have a movie that puts the whole aspect of itself, on the fact that you have to feel all tense and worked-up to really enjoy the whole movie, then you kind of have to wonder just when this movie’s time is up. I don’t know want to say that it got to that point for me, but there was a very heart-breaking point where I realized that, “okay, I already know what’s going to happen, so why the hell is Affleck wasting my time with all of these slow scenes and epic score bits?” But, I don’t want to give anything else away and trust me, if you don’t know the story going in, be ready, cause you may already know it from start-to-finish about half-way through. I did, and I think that’s where this film sort of failed in captivating me as much as I would have liked it to.
Then, it seems to get worse for Affleck as the guy doesn’t really stand-out as much with his performance as Tony Mendez. The problem with Mendez isn’t Affleck’s acting, in-fact, the guy’s pretty good when it comes to him showing his near-perfect comedic timing, as well as showing us a character that’s easy to root for, even when the odds are stacked up in his defense, more of the problem is that this character just doesn’t have much going for him that’s interesting or worth really standing behind in the first-place. Yeah, the guy singlehandedly comes up with this plan and is brave enough to go out there and finish it off himself, but he doesn’t really have much of anything else going for the guy. This is fairly evident when the film tries to shoe-horn the whole angle with him and how he misses his son and wife, even though they touch on it for about 6 minutes throughout the whole film, and then at the end, is supposed to have some big, emotional impact on us as we walk out the door. No, no, mister Ben. Not falling for it this time.
Then again, you have to give Affleck more credit because this even and plain performance, almost allows him to take a side-step to the left for the rest of his ensemble to show off and do their own thang unlike anybody else. Bryan Cranston shows up in his 100,000th movie role this whole year as Tony’s boss, and nails all of the snappy dialogue they give him, and his angry soul. I was hearing a lot of Oscar buzz surrounding Cranston and his role here and as good as the guy may be, I don’t really see it all that much since he’s not really stretching his skills as an actor by just yelling and looking mad all of the time. Still, it’s an act that I have yet to be tired of. Alan Arkin is also another guy that’s been getting a lot of buzz for his role here as big-shot, Hollywood producer, Lester Siegel. This buzz is deserved but I don’t really see Arkin getting a nomination, mainly because the guy doesn’t do anything else other than yell, scream, holler, and rant like the old man we all know and hopefully, love him for. Then, there’s John Goodman as real-life make-up artist John Chambers, who also seems to be having a lot of fun with his role and steals a lot of the scenes he’s in. However, the rest of the supporting cast is just filled, and filled, and filled to the brim with actors/actresses that you have most likely seen in about 1,000 other movies and when you see their faces pop-up here, you’re going to be going right up next to your buddies ear and say, “Hey, isn’t that the guy from that so-and-so movie?” Trust me, I did that plenty of times with my sister and I probably missed a hundred more because my mind would still be in heavy thought and not focused on who’s familiar face was going to show up next.
Consensus: Though it’s not as tense or electrifying as Affleck’s last two directorial efforts, Argo still works as a smart, funny, and entertaining thriller that covers a mission that not many people ever knew about, but was also a very important one by how it showed certain sides of the U.S. government working hand-in-hand with Hollywood in a slightly surreal, yet smart way.