“Argo” Review: Spoilers Ahead

Not quite the "must see" movie a lot of reviewers are making this film out to be.

The movie starts with a tense situation in Iran.  There is an angry mob surrounding the U.S. Embassy.  The Americans inside of the building are requesting help from the Iranian police, but the police do not come to their aid.   The people in the building are instructed by their superiors to burn everything/shred everything.  A small group of six people escape the building, but the rest are held hostage for over 69 days.  The six that escape make it to the Canadian ambassador’s home in Iran and the Americans at home are trying to create a plan to rescue them.  Meanwhile, they’re getting pressure from the American people, who are outraged and voicing that outrage clearly. 

Tony Mendez (Ben Affleck) gets an idea on how to save the six Americans.  His plan is to say that the six are a scouting crew for a film looking into Iran and then the men will disguise themselves as a film crew and swoop in to rescue them.  Mendez enlists John Chambers (John Goodman), a big time movie producer, to aid him in creating a production company to produce a fake movie in order to create a realistic cover.

I won’t spoil the rest of the movie for you–I just wanted to set up the plot.  Overall, Argo is not a “must see” movie like everyone else is saying.  It isn’t an amazing film, but it isn’t a bad film, by any means, either.  The biggest factor holding the movie back is the lack of action.  Now, I’m not saying that the film should have been a James Bond flick.  But, during some points, the movie seemed a little slow moving.  Some scenes seemed unnecessary and could have easily been cut (the movie runs roughly 2.5 hours…it could afford to have some scenes cut!!)  There were only a couple well-paced scenes in the movie.  And, unfortunately, those were the opening and ending scenes.

This is Affleck’s third attempt at directing a major motion picture.  He previously directed Gone Baby Gone and The Town.  With each experience, Affleck is only getting better.  His direction here is solid.  Affleck shows that he is not only a brilliant actor, but he is also an accomplished director.  If you enjoyed The Town, you will probably enjoy this movie as well. 

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Lora Kennedy, who also was the casting director for The Town, The Boondock Saint, and many other films, did a fantastic job casting for this film.  Argo is saved by the first-class acting of Ben Affleck, John Goodman and Bryan Cranston (who has been tearing up the small screen in Breaking Bad for years now).   Ben Affleck portrayed the internal conflict of Tony Mendez impeccably by capturing the human emotions of a C.I.A. agent.  John Goodman demonstrated his high level acting while also not stealing the spotlight from the main character of the film.  Goodman’s light sarcasm and energized wit is pretty much the only lighthearted bit of the movie–everything else in the film is solemn.  This is another memorable performance by Bryan Cranston.  Cranston reinforces the idea that he can portray any type of character and the genre of film he is acting in is irrelevant.  He has the ability to adapt to any role and make each and every character his own.

While not on the same level as Affleck, Goodman and Cranston, Alan Arkin’s performance should not go unmentioned.  His role was not a big part of the movie.  However, Arkin did have perhaps the most memorable moment in the film.  When Chambers (Goodman) pitches the Argo movie to the director, Lester Siegel (Arkin),  Siegel appears doubtful.  Then, Chambers directs Lester’s attention to the television screen, which is covering the Iran hostage situation.  This is one of the best points of the movie;  the director instantaneously changes his mind once he sees an American in a blindfold on this broadcast.  The way in which Arkin portrays this moment for his character shows the soft side of a big time director and captivates the audience unlike no other scene in the film.

The best quote in the film is, “It’s the best bad idea, by far.”  This is said by Cranston’s character when asked his opinion on Mendez’s rescue mission.  The quote shows that the C.I.A. did not have many options for rescuing The Six, and were stuck in-between a rock and a hard place.  With all of the pressure from the American people, the United States had to act quickly if they wanted to get their citizens back safely.

I also enjoyed the fact that Affleck decided to sum up the resolving events of the Iranian hostage crisis at the end of the movie, after the six were rescued.  It was important for Affleck to resolve the conflict that was the film’s opening scene–at the end of the movie, I was a little worried that he was just going to resolve the six’s rescue and leave the audience hanging about the other hostages in the U.S. Embassy.  Thankfully, Affleck did not leave the audience in doubt. 

The movie’s soundtrack was composed by Alexandre Desplat, who was also responsible for the music in  The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1.  The music is Oscar-worthy, to say the least, with tremendous tension building and memorable scoring.

I think others who have seen the movie have been a little generous in rating and recommending this film.   I understand that the Iranian hostage situation is a tough piece of American history to make an interesting movie out of, especially when we already know how it all turns out.  However, the movie tastefully covered this difficult topic.  The acting performances across the board were a big factor in my rating of this film.  Argo does a good job unraveling the Iranian hostage situation–albeit in a less than exciting way.  Overall, the movie pleases more than it disappoints, earning a rating of 7 out of 10 stars on my scale.  The movie will successfully satisfy the mature crowd, but younger movie-goers might find it a little dry for their liking and might want to wait for the DVD release.

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