Saturday, February 23, 2013
Drama, History, Thriller, 120 minutes
Directed by Ben Affleck
Starring Ben Affleck, John Goodman, Bryan Cranston and Alan Arkin
With one day remaining before the Oscars, Argo looks set to claim the award for Best Picture. The only reason there is any doubt is Ben Affleck's omission in the Best Director category.
Is the acclaim deserved?
Well, it's certainly a good film. The subject matter and the ultimate resolution will please many viewers. The acting is hard to fault at any point. But despite all those good qualities, Argo leaves me feeling a little underwhelmed. Perhaps it's because my expectations were so high?
The film focuses on the struggle to free six American citizens from Iran, after the US embassy had been stormed in 1979. The six were given refuge inside the Canadian embassy, at great risk to all involved. That's the basis for an engaging story. The reason it falls a bit flat is due to the opening half. We see the hostages escape, but they are not a major part of the story. We are shown a few scenes where one hostage might console another, but there's not enough depth to see them as individuals. We want them to be rescued, because it is the right thing to do, but they could be six random people we happened to pass in a supermarket.
Argo is more about the process involved in mounting a rescue attempt than about the hostages themselves, and that process is fascinating. CIA agent, Tony Mendez (Affleck), comes up with the idea of entering Iran posing as filmmakers scouting for a location. His preparation is thorough, and involves creating storyboards, hiring director Lester Siegel (Arkin), and John Chambers (Goodman), who was to be responsible for makeup. The two set up a fake studio and actually go through the motions of filming scenes.
I felt like I was back in 1979 due to the clothing, hairstyles, and generally muted color palette. But, unlike a movie such as Apollo 13 (where the outcome was also known), I was not gripped by the events on the screen for the duration of the film. I appreciate the effort, but I was only truly riveted during the second part of the story and the actual escape attempt itself. There is no need to reveal any more details, because it's better to see events unfold for yourself, even if you know the eventual outcome.
I'm probably making Argo sound like a disappointing failure, and that's not the case at all. I just don't think it is the best film of 2012. It would probably creep into my Top 10, and I'm glad I own it, but I was not fully invested in the plight of the hostages until they were shown trying to escape. It's an important film in terms of subject matter, and I do appreciate the efforts made to free the six American citizens, but I won't be trying to persuade my friends that Argo is an unmissable thriller.
Overall score 4/5
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