I'm kinda glad to see that Ben Affleck has managed to escape the albatross that was Gigli. And Daredevil, for that matter. But Gigli was albatross enough for one man, I think. Ben seems like a nice enough guy and he's more than made up for such past mistakes - so far. And he has indeed become a formidable director as well. in Argo, we get to see that, and that he certainly has reafirmed his acting cred as well.
Ben Affleck stars in and directs Argo, a film adaptation of the events in 1980 of the CIA and Canadian governments secret plot to extract six American diplomatic personnel out of revolutionary Iran. And the interesting thing is that they used the cover of being a film crew to try and get them out; a film crew scouting locations for a big science fiction film.
Yeah, this was a huge deal during President Carter's time in office. I vaguely remember all this happening; I mean, Hell, I was 14 or 15 years old. It was on my radar, but I was more interested in the fake sci-fi movie that was used as a ploy to get these people out of Iran than I was the political goings on at the time. Coming off of films like Star Wars, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Superman and Star Trek: The Motion Picture, I was a teenager that was more than little drunk on a Sci-Fi/Fantasy movie binge. It was quite a revolution for the genre at that time with such a leap forward in effects. Such a rich smorgasboard of celluloid fantasy was hardly about to be displaced by such adult matters as international affairs.
But that's where movies like Argo flourish - filling in those memories of our history that were otherwise occupied by the Space adventures or Kaiju movies of our youth. Well, my youth, anyway. So Argo informs as well as keeps us on the edge of our seat. And I think it does that even if you know the outcome. There is obviously a little bit of artistic liscence; parts of the story embellished for dramatic effect and all, but it's close to the true events. And Affleck does a fine job in both the acting and directing shoes.
The production design is perfect, and evey one of the actors is spot on. And why wouldn't they be, with the likes of Victor Garber, Bryan Cranston, Alan Arkin, John Goodman, Tate Donovan, Clea DuVall, Rory Cochrane and others you may well know. They really make this so real and every character has their role to play in their life-or-death deception of being a film crew scouting locations. It's indeed hard to imagine people actually having to pull that off in a real world situation that could end with your death if you screw it up.
Argo takes mostly the point of view of the CIA and their attempt at getting these people out of Iran. How Tony Mendez (Afleck) concocts the idea of the fake film crew, etc. The name Argo itself is the title of the script used as their cover. It's interesting to see how elaborate their scheme was, how real they had to make it in order for the plan to work. They even had a public cast reading of the whole script in L.A., and a full page ad that made the Daily Variety. I couldn't say for sure, but when I saw that black and white ad, I swore it looked familar. I don't know how far-reaching that campaign was, or how far they really took the ruse, but my teenage love of Sci-Fi would have honed in on that ad while I was looking in the paper for a movie to see one weekend. I've read that in reality, the ruse was far more elaborate than they made it look in this film. Maybe worth researching that for a hoot.
Much of the film that involves the creation of a fake film is quite funny - John Goodman (as make-up effects artist John Chambers) and Alan Arkin (as producer Lester Siegel) are, quite frankly, an excellent comedy team. Gods helps us if anyone gets the idea to make a new buddy cop movie. Ok, retired cops, but you know what I mean. But there isn't likely a good script idea out there for these two. Even if there were, Hollywood would surely screw that up. But they were great in this. And then the tension ramps up as Affleck's character arrives in Iran. And both aspects of the film are completely entertaining.
Yes, this is a really good film. Is it Oscar good? Well, we'll have to see what comes in the next eight weeks. But Argo is likely a contender. Affleck could get a directing nod, Cranston, Arkin or Goodman could get a supporting actor nod. And definitely a potential nomination for the script. But we'll see. November/December are big Oscar months. Regardless, Argo is a good four kittenhands. Obvious recommendation.
~ Neil T. Weakley, your average movie-goer, pretty sure my 15 year old self would love to have seen the psuedo Argo get made.