Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Argo (2012)

Director: Ben Affleck
Notable Cast: Ben Affleck, John Goodman, Alan Arkin, Bryan Cranston and a cameo by Kyle Chandler

Although not necessarily the cult kind of film one would expect to read a review for here on Blood Brothers, Ben Affleck has become something of a fascinating watch. We all know that he had a penchant for poor acting and choosing horrid films, but with "Gone Baby Gone" and "The Town" he showed us something greater. You can read my review for the latter film here if you want. It's this reason that "Argo" was a must see for me despite being a historical dramatic thriller that doesn't necessitate cult standing. "Argo", however, does necessitate much praise and Affleck once again nails his direction (and even some strong acting!) for the film to make it a worthy Oscar contender.

When tensions mounted in the late 70s and the early 80s between the United States and Iran over the US's influence in their country, a hostage crisis broke out at the embassy. While the world's eyes focused in on this hostage situation the CIA and one of their best specialists in extraction Tony Mendez (Affleck) are called in to solve a problem. Six embassy employees have been hiding out in the Canadian ambassador's house since the event and they need to get out. Now its up to Mendez to crack one of the strangest cover stories featuring him concocting a fake science fiction movie scouting trip to Iran to get the citizens out before they are tried for espionage.

"To desensitize you to torture of the most severe kind, we will be doing a verbal reading of "Gigli"."
What is perhaps the coolest and most admirable trait about "Argo" is the dedication that Ben Affleck took towards the details of the film. Generally speaking, these kinds of "true espionage" films require this sort of visionary balance between keep the facts straight and making an entertaining and good film that doesn't come off as a documentary. "Argo" pulls this off. Whether its the attention to getting that 70s/early 80s vibe down with the films colors, the grainy film look, and the classic Warner Bros logo and credits font or the long shot subtle character work - Affleck nails the style and feel of a late 70s/early 80s film. For those into the technical aspects of film making, "Argo" is fascinating. The recreation of famous photos and elements from the period for the film or the attention to costuming and relative time jumping set ups is simply stunning.

If only these thee really did make a low budget and ridiculous science fiction film...if only.
Then to top it off not only is "Argo" a film for history nuts looking to see a brief snapshot of what it might have been like, but its a damn good thriller. Despite the fact that nothing really blows up, there is no massive final gun battle, or anything really to push the film into the 'action' category of cinema - I was completely drawn into the tale and on the edge of my seat for the entire last half of the film. Something as simple as a ticket reservation becomes an edge of your seat phenomenon in Affleck's able hands and it never lets up. With the stunning cast in full stride (the supporting cast here better get a few Oscar nods or I'm going to protest the Academy Awards again) that's anchored by an impressive performance of subtlety from Affleck himself and some heart warming comedy from the Hollywood characters ably played by John Goodman and Alan Arkin, I was completely drawn into the plot focused film. Although never did I think that this was a high octane thriller, its slow burn and tremendous amount of atmosphere and tension easily made up for any flaws it might have had.

"Argo" is one of those films that rises above its own genre boundaries (a historical drama) and really makes a great entertaining cinema experience. Aflleck is on a roll with his strong artistic choices as a director and as an actor. "Argo" is a significant departure from his tried and true previous films and the risk paid off. This film is a must see for 2012.

Written By Matt Reifschneider

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