Top 10 films of 2012: Argo

Feature Simon Brew 31 Dec 2012 - 07:38

Ladies and gentlemen, it's the Den Of Geek writers' film of the year: Ben Affleck's Argo...

Last year, our film of the year was comfortably won by Drive. Drive led the polling in 2011 from the off, and won in the end at a canter. This year, it was a much, much tighter race, and over the course of the two weeks we polled our writers, the lead changed many times. As it turned out, Argo snuck through right at the end, and edged out The Avengers by one single vote. That doesn't make it any less deserving a winner though, as we're about to explain...

1st place:


Ben Affleck is a man with already one Oscar on his mantelpiece, for his screenplay for Good Will Hunting. By the time the Academy Awards take place in early 2013, there’s a sporting chance he’ll have at least one more. As the star and particularly the director of Argo, he’s fashioned an exemplary thriller. And it’s testament to his growing prowess as a director that it’s hard to think of too many other people who could pull this project off quite so successfully. It’s been widely critically lauded, and it’s found a big audience too, with over $100m in the US alone.

It helps, of course, that the story of Argo is such a compelling one in its own right. Based on a now-declassified true story, it follows a CIA operation to extract six US diplomats from Iran in 1979, during the hostage crisis of the time. Said diplomats, played by relative unknowns to help heighten the tension (making you less certain of the outcome), are holed up in the Canadian embassy, and the clock is ticking before they’re discovered. The pressure is thus on to come up with a way to get said diplomats out, ideally without using bicycles!

With this story in place, Affleck and screenwriter Chris Terrio effectively split Argo into two halves. The first is about the setup, and this is where the tone is ever-so-slightly lighter. Kicking off with a well told introduction to the Iranian hostage crisis and what led to it (there’s a lot of education packed into the opening five minutes alone), Affleck spends a good deal of well-spent time dealing with the instigation of a particularly offbeat plan – to set up a fake film production (the Argo of the title), and use that as cover. And he also brings in the characters and events required to make it happen.

The supporting cast in particular are exquisite here, with the pairing of John Goodman and Alan Arkin in award-baiting form. Bryan Cranston too adds gravitas, getting arguably the line of the film, if not the year, when he warns Affleck’s character of an impending meeting with the charming words “Brace yourself, it’s like talking to those two old fucks on The Muppets”.

If the first half finds lots of humour, the second, from the moment when Affleck’s Tony Mendez boards his plan to Iran, turns a lot more serious. It’s made abundantly clear just how high the stakes are in the earlier stages of the film, and as a consequence of that work, the tension never lets up from the moment Mendez sets foot in Iran. Take a sequence where Mendez takes the aforementioned diplomats for a drive, and try and prevent yourself gnawing the nails off your fingers. It’s superb cinema.

Affleck’s ability to ratchet up the tension is without question here, and the devil really is in the detail. Small things matter, such as the ominous gluing back together of shredded paper for example. Little details sown throughout the film threaten, but don’t always have resonance. There are red herrings and things that matter, and Affleck never lets you get comfortable by revealing which is which until he has to.

As a result, whether you know the eventual outcome or not, Argo will have you practically ripping the armrests of your chair for much of its second half. It perhaps falters very slightly in the last five minutes or so, but up until that point, it’s a wonderfully complete film.

It’s also, in a year that’s brought such genre treats as Looper, The Avengers (Assemble) and The Dark Knight Rises, Den Of Geek’s film of the year. It received more first place votes than any other feature on our list, and whilst it wasn’t the film we expected to top the list when we began our annual poll, we’re glad that it did. Pretty much everyone we know who’s seen it loves it, and it deserves significant success come Oscar night. Affleck is surely the man to beat for Best Director.

Furthermore, Argo leaves Ben Affleck as the director on the top of most studios’ wishlist at the moment, a stunning turnaround from where his career stood a decade ago. But Affleck, as he’s mentioned in interviews, said that he figured if he wasn’t getting interesting material offered to him, he’d go and find it himself. He’s proving to be quite brilliant at that, with his skill at telling stories only beaten by his ability to pick them.

His directorial career is only three films old, but it’s already one hell of a boxset. Intriguingly, Gone Baby Gone, The Town and Argo all work within slightly different genres too, suggesting that there’s a real range to the projects that he’s set to tackle in the future.

For now, whatever he picks next, be it blockbuster or small drama, he has some way to go to top what he’s achieved with Argo. We’re proud to name it our film of the year.

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Well done in spoiling the "best line of the film".
Why not just give us a whole plot synopsis while you are at it?

Great choice DoG! I've wholeheartedly agreed with the majority of your choices and been hanging out for No 1. Real edge of your seat thriller that should deservedly score come Oscar time. In fact, I'd love to see a good representation from your Top 10 in the list but fear it may not be so....

If you didn't want to be spoiled, maybe you shouldn't have read this article.

Also, the movie has been out since August (in the US) and October (in the UK). Chances are, you could have seen it by now.

Mild spoiler tag maybe?

Last year Drive, this year Argo.... Den not actually that Geeky after all.

So, this movie is better than Avengers, Dark Knight Rises, The Hobbit, and Skyfall?? Seriously? I'm sorry, but I thought this was a website for geeks. This must be the best movie ever made; I guess I'd better go see it.

from a site that keeps championing statham as a great actor what do you expect?

I stupidly missed Argo when it was in the cinema but I'll try and rent it as many of my friends have recommended it.

Absolutely no mention of Dredd?

Bunch of arseholes.

The Avengers was good, but I was disappointed with The Dark Knight Rises and Skyfall. Haven't seen the Hobbit yet.

I think Argo, dark horse though it was, is a solid movie, and I don't think it's a horrible choice.

Its a decent movie agreed, but best of the year? I don't see it. The ending is pretty cliched, like the airport bus that won't quite go into gear...oh no! really?

You were disappointed by Dark Knight and Skyfall? Both of those movies were excellent, so that puzzles me a lot. Anyway, I'm sure it's a decent choice, but this is a GEEK website. What about Looper? Argo beat out all of these?!?! Sorry, but this list is a fail for a website called Den Of Geek.

Whilst I'm happy to have variety and flexibility in the stuff covered on this site, I'm inclined to agree with Zaphod. I get particularly irked by the coverage of Pixar-type animated kids films, including in the 25 must-see films of 2013. I have nothing against that stuff, but I come to this site for geek genre material. Den of Geek should be undiluted Geek and proud, there are few enough pockets of resistance from the mainstream here. I should add that I think there is a distinction between "geek" and "cult", which is where the site tends to get rather blurred.

It has become apparent over the last year that DoG, whilst a good read, is not a news related website for geeks (more like a opinion piece), and includes content more intended to generate clicks than to stay true to its name, as evidenced by the fact that there has not been a post in the "Games" section of the website for 2 weeks, and nothing in "Comics/Books" for over a month.

This isn't a criticism, I like DoG and read it daily but generally the "news" isn't new and a lot of content is irrelevant to us geeks, but this is a commercial world we live in and compromises are inevitable. I'm just glad DoG hasn't completely sold its soul like Digital Spy et al and retains a bit of independence (albeit not free from bias).

oh would you people stfu about spoilers. what do you do? not watch trailers anymore? avoid all commercials? the movie isnt ruined because you read a review. its ruined because you and people like you dont have anything else to complain about.

respect....I hated Skyfall too. Its just boring, gloomy and depressing, its not a Bond film in my book, its like spooks meets bbc drama....did I mention its dull? Dark Knight rises was ok, I enjoyed it, but they could never top the second one, so it was good enough...imagine if it was the second bat film and ..erm ok forget that idea. I watched Argo last night, and it was really tense pretty damn good. Better than I expected it to be.

I'm sure that the title of the article is 'Top 10 films of 2012' not 'Top Geek films of 2012' Its a review of the writers opinions on film as a general medium.
So Argo has every right to be on this list
As geeks/nerds/devotes of printed and filmed arts im sure there are plenty of us that have a wide range of interests at the cinema rather than just the superhero films (although recent outings in this genre have been excellent)

I may not agree with their placings however but I have found it a fascinating read.
Well done DoG looking forward to your review of 2013's films

Yes, but this is a DEN of geek, except that it isn't... it's a den of pretty much an awful lot of other stuff. And we all consume "other stuff", but we can go to plenty of other places to find it. Ask yourself (or the site) why is it not the "Top 10 Geek films of 2012" on Den of Geek? If we're considering any type of film, then I should think there are plenty more worthy non-geek entries, and perhaps most of the geek films would be relegated out of the list altogether. Why not have two lists?

They've even chosen to leave Hobbit part 2 off of their list of films for 2013. Cater for the audience dudes.

Dear Readers of DoG, our number 1 film of 2012 is: not a geek film. Dear viewers of MotD, our number 1 sporting moment of 2012 is: Jessica Ennis winning the heptathlon.

Movie geeks, perhaps?

I don't have a problem with their geek credentials in regards to the list. The majority of them are genre films. They could, however, split up lists into genres - sci fi/fantasy/whatever - in the future. Maybe that would please the readers?

Considering it's a story rooted in film history and includes people notable to geeks such as John Chambers and Jack Kirby, I'd say you could make an argument that it qualifies, at the very least for film geeks.

i watched this today. what a disappointment. while well acted and directed, if you know even the smallest fraction of history there was zero suspense. it was surpriseless and only a marginal step up from a movie of a week in intensity. overall it was hugely disappointing but then again when your rating scale put The Dark Knight Rises in a top ten list it is pretty clear that there is something wrong with the scale.

My point is broader than just this list, though. And I think your comment highlights part of it - the majority of the list is genre films... but not no.1. In the days between them telling us no.2 and no.1, people were speculating on what the top spot would be, lots of suggestions of Dredd, given that Batman, Avengers etc had already come up, but I don't think anyone guessed Argo. This isn't some geek traditionalist old skool thing, it's purely a matter of what do you come here for? The odd step outside the genre is probably a good thing, but making the top film of the year a "non-geek" film seems a bit odd to me. I repeat my suggestion that "geek" and "cult" are not the same thing, and DoG is not the same as Empire.

Cant believe Dredd didnt even get a mention kinda expected it to be no.1 becoz i hadnt seen it in the 9 so far since this DoG but i suppose there are plenty of different types of geeks. Really want to see Argo now but it wouldnt be hard to be better than TDKR the whole bat statue at the end was really stupid i thought kinda like Superman IV but that was just one little thing that annoyed me. Looper was a great movie i thought so deserved its place but still cant believe no mention of Dredd especially after the hotshot scene near the start set it up nicely.

I expected Dredd to be number 1 also, but then again, despite how much DoG went on about the film, their review only gave it three stars.

If it is a movie I am really looking forward to such as Iron Man 3 for example, then yes, I avoid trailers I avoid commercials, I don't read speculation reviews. I go on a complete media blackout so I can enjoy it all for the first time when I see it. So why don't you take your negative attitude elsewhere?

how about i dont. saying "I AVOID EVERYTHING" when it comes to a movie thats based on a RECORDED AND VERY PUBLIC MUTINATIONAL EVENT is like trying to avoiding the common cold. i swear you people that turn a blind eye to history are so you can enjoy a movie are a damn sad waste of space

Avoiding movie trailers and turning a blind eye to history are two completely different things perhaps you should check that? In my post if you actually took the time to read it properly which I don't think you did, I was referring to a different movie. But lets talk about this one, I do know what Argo is about historically. But still until I see this movie I am not going to go brush up on my history, I know enough to know that I will enjoy the story of this movie. But I don't go watch every new trailer/advert when its out. Once I have seen the movie I'll then go brush up on my history to find out how factual the movie was to enhance my experience when I see it for the second time.

My approach to movies is based on experience when I've seen all the best bits in the trailers and there is no more "WOW" factor to the movie because I've seen it many times in the trailer it had lost its edge. But again go back and read my post, you'll see the line:"If it is a movie I am really looking forward to"

So if it is a movie I am unsure about, sure I'll watch a trailer or two to tickle my interest to see if it is something I would pay money to see. You seem to come across as the kinda person who goes on wikipedia and reads the entire plot before deciding to go watch a movie, am I right? If so then whats the point?

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