November 26, 2012
When I saw the trailer of "Argo," I already felt like the whole story was already shown. I did not feel like I wanted to watch it. The story of rescuing hostages in Iran by pretending they were shooting a movie is simply unbelievable. The star and director was one of my least favorite Hollywood actors, Ben Affleck. However, curiosity still got the better of me when nothing but stellar reviews came out when it was shown. There was even talk of Oscar nominations! This I had to see.
Ben Affleck plays Tony Mendez who came up with this wild idea. He plays it smartly low key in the whole movie. But in that key scene where he announces his idea in the first place, I still feel that Ben was deficient as the lead actor. I would not have been sold the way he delivered the critical line about his suggestion to film a fake movie. It is great though that the rest of the supporting cast succeeded very well in their respective roles. Alan Arkin and John Goodman were very funny as the Hollywood people who help Ben hatch the fake absurd sci-fi project which they dubbed "Argo."
The story is still as unbelievable as I thought. The whole scheme felt so shallow and lame, something only a B-movie producer would greenlight. We are talking about rescuing Americans trapped in Iran in the 70s under the Ayatollah Khoemeini here, and all they can come with was something as ridiculous and far-fetched as this one. But I guess what they say is true, that truth is stranger than fiction.
Fortunately, Ben Affleck the director was able to sell the whole movie to us in a very tight, tense and assured way. The climactic sequence of the escape proper was done in a rather clichéd Hollywood-y manner, but you can't help but hang on to the edge of your seats. The film editing, the very late 70s style cinematography, the realistic set and costume design all contribute to the success of story telling.
This is a very good suspense thriller yes, but to call it the next Oscar Best Picture I think is overreaching a bit. Like "The Town" before this, Ben Affleck has improved as a director, but the Oscar for Best Director for "Argo" may also be too much of an ambition. Nominations for both categories though are real possibilities, but are more certain in the Supporting Actor and the technical categories.