Argo Review

Argo is a 2012 spy drama written by Chris Terrio and directed by/starring Ben Affleck. The film was successful at the 2013 Academy Awards, earning Best Editing, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Picture of the year.

Based on the true story of a CIA operation during the Iranian hostage crisis, it centers around Tony Mendez, an exfiltration specialist tasked with rescuing a group of six American embassy workers currently hiding in the Iranian Canadian embassy. In order to do this he hatches an unorthodox plan: using a fake movie as a cover to get the Americans out. Once he gets to Iran they disguise themselves as the film crew scouting for a film location. They just need to make sure they don't get caught.

The main characters are all just fine for the most part. The six escapees are all just kind of the same person: terrified and unsure of how this'll all go. However, that's what makes them relatable; since they're being kept as the everyman we know how they must feel in this situation. They're reacting exactly how we would react, so we connect with their struggle. The blandest character in the film, however, is Ben Affleck's character, Tony Mendez, which isn't a good thing since the film revolves around him. Affleck is in a constant state of pouty face throughout the entire film, barely emoting outside of "solemn". The best characters in the movie are John Chambers, a Hollywood makeup specialist, and Lester Siegel, a retired filmmaker who helps Mendez set up a fake production company. Both of these characters are fun, lively and get all the best lines and the film probably would be average, at best, without them.

The screenplay is just adequate. It gets the job done, most of it being expositional dialogue, but there's no style to the way it's written. The exposition is warranted, though; this is a spy thriller which involves a lot of planning, so the fact that the script is 70% exposition isn't to it's detriment. It's just sad that the screenwriters didn't bother to do anything more than serviceable.

The beginning of the film, and I mean literally the beginning of the film, has some interesting and creative aesthetic choices. For their opening credits they used the old Warner Brothers logo and old, 1980s-looking font quality. It helps establish what time the movie is taking place in and is a nice homage to the past movie industry.

The actors all do a pretty good job. Like I said, Affleck doesn't seem interested in showing much range beyond "I'm sad but also serious", but the other actors are all good. The six actors playing the escaped Americans all portray fear and tension well, but the main attractions when it comes to acting are John Goodman and Alan Arkin as the two Hollywood guys. They deliver their one liners perfectly and put all the energy they can into making these characters feel alive; Arkin in particular looks like he's having fun as the foul-mouthed, I-don't-give-a-sh*t retired director and he gets all the best lines in the movie.

I've never seen Ben Affleck as that great a director since there's nothing to distinguish him from any other director out there. His set design isn't very interesting to look at, his cinematography is standard and the acting is adequate. However, even though that doesn't make him interesting as a director, it does endow him with a sense of humility regarding his work. He doesn't try to be fancy or call attention to himself. He simply does what he can to get the job done in the most efficient way possible; I really respect a director with that kind of self-control in a world where too many directors try too hard to distinguish themselves.

Summary: If this is a really short review that's because there's not much to say about Argo. It's a perfectly adequate spy thriller and while it does help the surrealness factor that it's based on actual events there's not much other than that to make it stand out. There aren't any memorable lines, scenes or characters, except for the Hollywood guys. I can't tell you a reason you should see it, but I can't think of a reason not to see it either. If you liked Bridge of Spies, you'll like this movie.



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