I first remember hearing of Argo from seeing the initial theatrical trailer before, I believe it was, The Dark Knight Rises. But don't hold me to that. I only remember being highly intrigued by this great looking trailer sitting there before a movie. I've always liked Ben Affleck, though he does receive a ton of hate from critics and such. Maybe it's because I'm a Kevin Smith fan that I have a soft spot for him. After The Town a couple years ago now, I knew that Affleck could write, direct and produce a damn good movie. The initial viewing I had of Argo was in October and it was just an okay watch for me. Not great, but not terrible either. I decided to go back to it after all this Oscar hype and I can honestly say, that this is a movie (for me) that got better the second time around.
Argo follows the story of Tony Mendez (Ben Affleck) who is assigned to rescue six people in Iran. Riots broke out in November of 1979 and the US embassy is sized by Iranians. They are furious because the US sheltered their recently deposed Shah, who they want to try and execute. But, as stated before, six people; Robert Anders (Tate Donovan), Cora Lijek (Clea DuVall), Mark Lijek (Christopher Denham), Joe Stafford (Scoot McNairy), Kathy Stafford (Kerry Bishé) and Lee Schatz (Rory Cochrane) escape. They are being sheltered at the Canadian Ambassador, Ken Taylor's (Victor Garber), home. The CIA supervisor, Jack O'Donnel (Bryan Cranston), lets Mendez run free with his plan to make a fake movie set in Iran and train the six to "become" Canadian filmmakers. Once they learned their covers, they could presumably fly out of Iran. With the help of Hollywood make-up artist John Chambers (John Goodman) and a veteran movie producer Lester Siegel (Alan Arkin), they acquire everything needed to produce this fake film. Very quickly, the fake film is becoming more real by the day. They have a movie poster, a pinned script named "Argo", along with fake passports and a once in a lifetime plan. Tony Mendez travels into the heart of the enemy to attempt to rescue the six people, before the Iranians get to them first.
I got into this very quickly since I knew what I was expecting so to speak. The story, while embellished in a ton of ways, makes for an exciting story. This is based on a true story, so I'm sure Affleck and the crew took some liberties to make it more exciting for the viewer. There are a few parts, that if you do a little research on, can find out did not really happen, yet fit in the movie so well. The writing, by Chris Terrio, was great. Though he had some good books to adapt his screenplay from in; "The Master of Disguise" and "The Great Escape" by Tony Mendez and Joshua Bearman respectively. Even in the little amount of time, you really do invest in a lot of these characters. Most don't get a lot of screen-time behind Mendez, O'Donnel or Siegel and Chambers, so to be able to invest in everyone is a endeavor I liked. From a dialogue stand point as well this was done great, as the humor between the Hollywood people are great. The urgency between all the US government workers are done well. With the apprehension and fear of the Canadians and hideaways delving you deeper into everyone involved.
This is a two hour movie, that I felt could've been cut down a bit. The opening scene, highlighting briefly the history of Iran did nothing for me. While some of the scenes set with the CIA or the White House could've been cut or at least trimmed down. There were no dragging scenes persay either, more scenes that wouldn't have ruined the movie if they were removed. The cinematography was pretty great at times. Highlighting some of LA's biggest sites and fly-over shots of the city set back in the early 80s was a cool touch. The big thing for me in this is the acting. Ben Affleck has to carry this movie, as Tony Mendez, and he does. When there needs to be humor he rolls with it and when the serious needs to set it, he brings to stoic tone. The roles played by the six stuck in Iran were pretty good too, with standouts for me going to Scoot McNairy, Clea DuVall and Tate Donovan. Those three held the six together and gave the best performances out of them. The supporting roles were great as well. Bryan Cranston never felt out of place, John Goodman is always a good on screen presence and Alan Arkin delivers a fantastic performance as Lester Siegel. The acting is great all around, but when you have six or more people giving an outstanding performance a movie can come together that much more.
Argo is a movie I'm highly glad I went back to and really does deserve to be in the best picture nods this year at the Oscars. Ben Affleck has produced, directed and starred in what now is probably his best film to date. The storytelling is phenomenal and will keep you on the edge of your seat. This movie never makes you worry either. It's a thriller, full of tension and drama (when needed), that a lot of the time is covered in a lighthearted and hopeful tone. The acting is great, while the score, length, cinematography is done well to follow. This is easily one of the top three films of the year, with Django Unchained and Lincoln, if we're looking at strictly nominations. But for me, while it is an exceptional movie, it fails to grab me and convince me it truly is the best movie of 2012.