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Film Review : Argo

Oct 19, 2012 08:01AM ● By Justin Buettner

Based on the declassified documents about the rescue of six Americans stranded in Iran during the tense Iran Hostage situation of 1979, the film follows CIA agent Tony Mendez’s daring extraction plan. Mendez poses as a Canadian filmmaker doing location scouting and with the cooperation of the Canadian Ambassador Ken Taylor manages to disguise the six Americans as the crew. This elaborate scheme, thought by many to be insane, is what is deemed “the best worst idea” that our government had at the time.

The attention to detail in Argo is impeccable. The movie looks like they took a time machine back to 1979 and made the film. From the retro Warner Brothers logo down to smallest prop, every inch of the film felt authentic. Argo is the best example of set decoration and production design that I have seen in some time; very impressive. The rest of the movie is not quite as impressive as its retro look, but it is an interesting and at times tense CIA spy thriller.

Ben Affleck has resurrected his career with his last film The Town which was met with critical acclaim. With Argo, Ben Affleck cements that the Town was no fluke, he is a very good filmmaker. He has a good sense of pacing and definitely an eye for detail. I also like his choice of camera movement and angles to tell his story. The way Argo was shot helped pushed the tension was masterful. Most of the problems I had with Argo lied in the story itself.

 I felt that Argo started out fairly slow aside from the opening sequence. The first two acts focuses on CIA agent Tony Mendez while the more interesting story rested with the stranded six Americans in Iran. While the nuts and bolts of how the CIA set up the mission is interesting, it is emotionally lacking. The tension, drama, and fear that must of existed with the group of six Americans hiding in a hostile foreign land could have been so much more than what Argo includes. By not focusing more of the film on the six stranded Americans, the audience’s connection with these important characters is lacking. Caring more about these people  would have made their escape much more exciting. As it stands they are a supporting group to Affleck’s Mendez CIA character. The good news is that the movie kicks into high gear during its final act as it ratchets up the tension as the group of Americans attempt to walk into a high security airport and fly out of Iran while there is a manhunt in place. Despite the lack of depth to the characters Affleck’s direction pulls you into the escape and the high intensity of danger.

The opening sequence that quickly recaps the historical lead up to the Iran Hostage event was animated well and streamlined to cut to the chase. It certainly sets up the story for the less informed viewer. I did feel though that the introduction had a clear political agenda to it and conveniently leaves out information while embellishing other parts to fit the filmmakers ideology. While a movie like Argo is not a substitute for learning about historical events (or at least I hope people will dig a bit deeper than this) I could have done without the clear political agenda that the film delivers at times.

The cast is tremendous and all the actors turn in great performances. John Goodman and Alan Arkin are particularly entertaining as Hollywood producers. Bryan Cranston and Victor Garber make for credible high ranking officials and ambassadors. Ben Affleck saved the lead role for himself as CIA agent Tony Mendez and does a great job.

Argo is a well made historical thriller based on true events. People who are a fan of historical dramas will be hard pressed to find a better one this year even with the much hyped Steven Spielberg Lincoln coming to theaters next month. Argo contains the right mix of drama, action, tension, and even humor to keep the pace going even though I think the story centered on the wrong set of characters. The final act of Argo really impresses and the film ends on all the right notes. This is a rare film that is sure to impress critics and moviegoers alike. Argo is a worthy investment of your time and entertainment budget.

Films like Argo : Ocean’s Eleven, Munich, and Valkyrie

Justin Buettner is Style's resident movie dude! How did he get this role? Well, he graduated from Loyola Marymount University with a Bachelor of Arts in film Production and a duel minor in Animation and Business with an emphasis in the entertainment field. He later went on to work on several independent films in various key roles including writer and later worked in the special effects field as a motion capture artist. He has since relocated to the Sacramento area with his family and continues writing for small independent films in addition to his movie reviews for Style Magazine.

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