Monday, August 19, 2013

Movie Review: Argo

Finally got around to seeing this film.  I've liked Affleck's other directorial works including The Town and Gone Baby Gone.  Argo continues Affleck's solid directorial resume.  While none of these three films will blow you away with storytelling, editing, acting or directorial chops.  What all will do is entertain the viewer.

Argo entertains the viewer with far fewer bullets and explosions than most films of similar ilk and there is little "action" as it were, in the film.  Almost all of the suspense and action here takes place in the minds of the viewer and characters.  Tension isn't hard to develop given the circumstances (escapees from the Iranian embassy takeover in 1980 hiding in the Canadian embassy) surrounding them as the risk of instant death at the hands of religious zealots awaits any mistake.

In a case of "if it weren't true, no one would believe it" the plot revolves around an American CIA effort to extract said escapees from Iran under the guise of a Canadian science fiction movie location shoot.  That such a scheme actually worked says a lot more about the lax airport security and overall lack of intelligence oversight during that period of time and place than it does about the quality of the plan (please see my review of The Skies Belong to Us for an insight into airport security during this period).  That said, it still took someone(s) with great courage to pull off the mission that successfully extracted those six American citizens.  Doing double duty, Affleck, in addition to directing, also takes on the role of Tony Mendez, the CIA agent who leads the American extraction effort.  While saddling him with a damaged marriage falls into the realm of cliche, luckily the film does not dwell there.

In truth Argo isn't a GREAT film.  Its merely a good one.  One that tells its story without getting in the way or playing its hand too heavily.  It might even be called "restrained".  Certainly other directors would have spruced up the story with more chases, more gunplay, more "gotcha" moments (even Affleck adds in a chase scene that never happened in real life toward the end of the film), but as a bit of a throwback to older "thrillers" Argo comes off fresh compared to something like Die Hard 4 or other set pieces for demolition crews.  While not deserving of its eventual Best Picture and other Oscar nods (there is nothing here that really grips you emotionally or that blows you away artistically), Argo is a good film not for what it is, but instead for what it isn't.

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