Argo (2012) – Review

4 Stars

Argo is the third film directed by Ben Affleck and much like his previous works Gone Baby Gone and The Town, this is an instant classic. The compelling story is brimming with tension, atmosphere and humor. Beginning with the Warner Bros opening logo which is done in homage to the 1980’s design, Affleck’s film never steps wrong, deftly sidestepping cliches and melodrama. If this project had been declassified before the decision came from the Clinton Administration in 1997, it is very possible someone like Warren Beatty or Dustin Hoffman would have been in the lead. It’s a great compliment to Affleck’s talent as an actor and director, that after viewing the film it is impossible to envision anyone else handling this material as successfully.

Argo tells the story of the historic account of Central Intelligence Agency operative Tony Mendez’s rescue of six U.S. diplomats from Tehran, Iran during the 1979 Iran hostage crisis. The film stars Affleck as Tony Mendez the man who thinks up the outlandish cover story, that he is part of a Canadian film crew scouting locations for a sci-fi film titled “Argo”. The screenplay by Chris Terrio is solidly constructed into four major interludes, the first chronicles the storming of the U.S. embassy by an angry mob: then we move onto a humorous section that sly mocks the Hollywood film industry and the science-fiction genre specifically. Perhaps the most unsettling passage is a meeting that takes place in a crowded Bazaar, which nearly leads to a riot. Certainly though the last 30 minutes of the film is absolutely riveting. Even though we are aware of the outcome it is still an excruciating and exhilarating ordeal to watch.

This is a picture that gets all the peripheral details right, from the brand of cigarettes popular in 1979 to the Star Wars action figures that litter Melendez’s sons’ wall. If Affleck has shown anything over the course of his first three films; it is a fantastic sense of place and time. Everything feels authentic, from the period detail to the political attitudes of its day. Argo is the type of movie that occasionally sneaks out of the studio system, a crowd pleaser with an upscale cast and more importantly; intelligence. One of the best films of 2012. Argo is not to be missed.

Director: Ben Affleck
Stars: Ben Affleck, Bryan Cranston, Alan Arkin

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