With controversial comedies like “Tropic Thunder” or silent films like “The Artist,” Hollywood in recent years has managed to both poke fun at itself and travel back in time with nostalgia. Ben Affleck’s latest directorial effort, “Argo,” is another movie based on movie making. What makes “Argo” different, though, is that the movie making is fake and it is saving lives.
Based on true events, “Argo” is about Tony Mendez (Ben Affleck, “Te Town”), a CIA agent specializing in getting people out of dangerous and hostile situations. While also facing family issues as his wife and him have taken a break and is missing out on his son’s life. At the tip of the Iranian Revolution, Mendez comes up with perhaps the “best bad idea” he has ever had: concocting a fake movie in order to rescue six Americans taking shelter at the Canadian ambassador’s home. To do this, he assembles the help of special effects expert John Chambers (John Goodman, “Paranorman”) and producer Lester Siegel (Alan Arkin, “The Muppets”).
Affleck has been on a brilliant directing streak with such critically acclaimed films as “Gone Baby Gone” and “The Town.” “Argo” does not break that streak. In fact, it may just set Affleck for some as one of the best directors in the business right now. He knows drama and he seems to have found his niche with these real-world situations. With “Argo” he manages to combine edge of your seat suspense with a perfect dose of dark comedy. Arkin and Goodman are a perfect comedic team in their respective roles, providing the right amount of humor in an otherwise dramatic story. Arkin is the highlight here, as he seems to be just naturally funny. Every time he is on screen, one will wonder what he will say next. Bryn Cranston (TV’s “Breaking Bad”) as Jack O’Donnell is as good as ever. His presence, while smaller than other characters, is still felt in this film.
Perhaps the biggest complaint with “Argo,” as with Affleck’s other films, is that it tends to be slow moving. But this negative does little to affect the film. The payoff of the movie is that the film is bookended by two thrilling, nerve-racking scenes and whether one enjoys the course of the film, these are still a testament to Affleck’s skill as a director. The fact that Mendez’s family remains a distant plot point throughout the film could have been a problem but in a way it shows Mendez’s own distance from his family as he’s always attached to work.
“Argo” could perhaps be the film that kick starts this year’s award season, as it’s already getting plenty of Oscar buzz. Whether it will be a strong contender remains to be seen, as it is still early in the year, but based on the film alone, its chances are strong. “Argo” is thrilling, often funny, sometimes moving, and an all-around great film.