Director: Ben Affleck
Starring: Ben Affleck, Bryan Cranston, John Goodman, Kyle Chandler and Alan Arkin
Review Written By: Michael Dalton
With (The underrated) Gone Baby Gone and (The overrated) The Town, Ben Affleck made a great start to his directorial career. However it is with Argo, that he has become a great director. Moving away from Boston, Affleck has made a film, which is his most mature, stylish and accomplished to date. The opening is perhaps a perfect microcosm of the film’s tone and Affleck’s direction throughout. The history of the Iranian revolution is presented to us in a coherent manner, visualized through the form of cartoon storyboards mixed in with real life footage. Throughout the film Affleck is telling an important, real-life story, yet doing so in a visually involving, exciting and accessible manner.
Given its period setting, the film is very well produced and designed. There isn’t a single out of touch element and with the references to Network and Star Wars, the soundtrack and the costumes; you are very much in the late seventies. During the credits stills from the film are compared to stills from real life, instigating a realization as to just how accurately Affleck and co. have recreated the events.
This is a film that Hollywood will absolutely love. Not only do they play a part in saving the day, yet there are jokes which require a deep knowledge of film to understand what they are referencing and a placement in the industry to find it funny (I refer to the WGA joke) Oscar nominations a plenty for this and perhaps a victory for Adapted Screenplay (You heard it here first) However this film is not Hollywood nor the United States slapping itself on the back and instead tells a very simple, near heist story, that moves away, for better or for worse, from making grand political statements.
Where this film succeeds the most, is with its tension. This is a film that places you right in the action, with my audience being so involved, that when the rescue missions hits its apex, there was a round of applause. This is the first time I have witnessed a round of applause during a film. It was a testament to just how much the audience were engaged and how much they cared, with research showing that my screening was not the only one to have such a response. The third act of this film does not lose your attention for a second, with you being right on the edge of your seat without a single explosion or special effect necessary.
In regards to the performances this is a true ensemble effort as there is no one standout. Ben Affleck is perfectly functional in the lead role, however this film finally and definitively certifies that he is a better director than actor (An indication of his skills as a director rather than his skills as an actor…well in this film anyway) Bryan Cranston FINALLY has a supporting role in a film this year which is of some substance. While he is yet to receive the role that his work on Breaking Bad demands, this is a vast improvement and a nice start. The two standouts for many however, will be John Goodman and Alan Arkin. As the Hollywood contingent of the story, they share the majority of the film’s humour. Goodman supposedly nails his portrayal of makeup artist John Chambers, while Arkin plays a fictional movie producer who states, “If I’m going to make a fake movie, it’s going to be a fake hit” That is not the only memorable line of dialogue Chris Terrio’s script provides, with lines such as, “You want to come to Hollywood and act like a big shot without actually doing anything…you’ll fit right in” delivered by John Goodman and Bryan Cranston’s C.I.A agent declaring, “This is the best bad idea we have sir…by far”
The film is reminiscent of Moneyball in two ways. The early scenes where C.I.A planners spin out nonsense only to be shown the light by the lead evokes memories of Brad Pitt saying, “It’s an unfair game” however one of this film’s biggest flaws, it shares with Moneyball. Like Moneyball, there is a rather jarringly placed and unnecessary subplot involving an estranged child. It isn’t developed enough to be powerful (In fact it is developed less than Moneyball’s was) and although it ends the film on a cute note, doesn’t feel as important or as affecting as it could have been. It’s estranged child subplot is just as problematic yet not even as well realized, as the one in Moneyball, which in relation to Argo’s seems much more significant.
The film’s more light touch may also upset some who were perhaps looking for something a bit darker and more controversial, however Affleck doesn’t hit one false note tonally. The film is top to bottom, very efficiently done, incredibly entertaining and well paced, with it telling a fascinating story in a respectful manner. You’ll learn, you’ll laugh and maybe you’ll clap.
By Movie Parliament Prime Minister,
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