Review: Argo


Renaissance man Ben Affleck has now undoubtedly etched out a re-ignited career as a Director.

With a talent first suggested by Gone Baby Gone and built on in The Town; Ben’s repositioned fallen star now firmly sits atop of Hollywood with this best picture Oscar winner.

What better way to confirm those credentials then? Indeed, but not solely with statuesque glory but in tackling the always difficult political hot potato of US – Middle East relations by telling the story of a sextet of escapees from a besieged American  embassy in Tehran  in 1979 and an outlandish great escape plan.

Argo is a story a director simply elects to helm when there’s no guarantee of glory in a bumper year of film (Argo only gained awards momentum late on); Affleck, in what is still a relatively fledgling directing career, perhaps could have picked anything to chair, instead showing courage to direct a personal project that’s clearly close to his and patriot’s hearts and minds.

Disparaged for historical inaccuracies and giving slim credit to Canada’s pivotal role, Affleck mutes these critical points with a sleight of hand in handling a multi-faceted tale; yes it’s expectedly gritty and grimy in its turn of the decade setting, with period chic and steady cam visuals capturing a time now appearing ancient; But in handling a globe trekking tale with Hollywood satire dovetailing middle eastern tension all while Washington oversees, there’s clear potential for it to all get too entangled.

Argo flows seamlessly though with expert pacing aided by reserved editing that keeps another potentially bland political tale on point and compelling right along to the climatic airport escape.


Not dwelling overlong in anyone place to create a multi genre movie, Affleck’s CIA extractor first goes to Hollywood to create the elaborate cover of Argo -the space adventure, the absurd ticket into Iran that would create least suspicion?

With the help of Producer Alan Arkin and make up man John Goodman the revealing industry satire brings lightness and laughs as the REAL process of producing a picture from story boards, press releases and conferences ushers in Argo the trip, as the initially implausible plot gains brilliant momentum and bookends with a tense finale that completely hinges on the believability of the created fantasy.

Prior in DC’s spy room spit-balling, various extraction plans for the incarnated diplomats demonstrate Affleck’s protagonist’s field expertise and bring  another welcome turn from Bryan Cranston as the CIA project lead and Big Ben’s ‘I got your back’ man.

Tehran’s gritty setting is where most of the pulse raising action takes place with a downtown bazaar dress rehearsal building the tension for the real one-take escape; but much of the diplomat’s prior in-house dramatics remain stoic and mostly unmoving, making it hard to feel for the party when they’re much like the sheep that follow Ben the Shepard. Their house arrest lacks the true intensity of true imprisonment or conveys a painful passage of time.

The Tehran six remain mostly underdeveloped as a flock, with only Scoot McNairy’s master plan oppositionist emerging from cynic to key player at the crisis point. The focal point of the mission to rescue the escapees underplays the plight of the larger number of hostages still in the embassy, surely the more perilous part of the story that goes mostly untouched?

ARGO (2012)

Affleck brings the key sentiment though in an understated central performance on which the majority of Argo relies; without grandeur and revealing little of a troubled man, the subplot of the international family man of mystery back burns, sparing the often seen domestic fallout and the incumbent histrionics; being well known already that spies and family don’t manage Affleck’s reluctant hero is left to focus on the mission, while revealing just enough of his undoubted inner anguish.

In the Triumphant climax the saccharine high fiving seems out of canter with a mostly modest and respectful retelling and while the Canadian role in the crisis is acknowledged as an example of international cooperation in a pre-end titles eulogy and fleeting references, that nation’s part against fact is significantly underplayed when seen only to provide refuge for the underground agents.

When excusing the inconsistencies though, Argo is viewed as a superb piece of sweaty palm cinema handled expertly by a director who can now be firmly considered as the real deal. Certainly, liberties are taken, but artistic licence makes for a more entertaining part fiction that enthralls and is never leaden; As relevant and as current as ever too when telling another significant tale of the historic and present US involvement in an unstable region, perhaps making Affleck’s highpoint the most appropriate choice for award from a partisan academy.

new 4 star

30 responses to “Review: Argo

  1. Excellent review here man. Very good film but it shouldn’t have been the Oscar winner in my opinion. That would be The Master for me (even though it wasn’t nominated).
    I notice you’ve changed your rating system? I gave it 4/5 also.

    • oooooo The Master? I am working on my review now, not read your review purposely since. I wouldn’t say The Master was either and I think we may differ but I will hold back for now. I liked Argo, but not the best film of the year and the summary gave my feelings as to why it was chosen as possibly more of a bias academy vote. Changed the scoring, I was struggling with the 7/8’s, 3,4,5 are less vague, and it was a change in anticipation of my pending score for The Master as it happens. :I
      watch this space lol!

  2. Nice review Kev. Not the Best Picture winner I would have chosen, but still a nice flick none the less. Affleck is really proving to kick some ass as a director.

    • indeed, everyone he has done so far has been very enjoyable. I am undecided which movie was the best this year, for a partisan academy then argo would be.

    • of all the movies, I probably enjoyed it the most, it was a tough call this year. saying that my final summary reflects it’s choice as winner as more a reflection of a partisan academy than a clear personal view of my own. very pro US which probably swung it.

      • Better than the hairy palm angle. We normally review retro, B-movies and the like but sometimes do more recent stuff, so maybe if we find the time.

  3. This is the first review of Argo with which I agree 100%. Thanks for a brilliant summary of the film. On a different note, previous comments suggest it should not have been the oscar winner but whilst I do not think it is a perfect film, I don’t feel it robbed any others of the title. It was a fairly even spread for me this year and I’m happy with that particular result.

    • Thanks for your comment and your approval 🙂
      I was trying to get across that for a partisan academy it was probably their best choice, not necessarily mine. I haven’t categorically decided what the best movie was last year for me, but I am happy with the award it got too.

  4. Argo was a great flick… I’m still up in the air as to whether or not it should have won the Oscar. Frankly, I think it was a great year for movies last year… but a weak Oscar class. Which opened the door here.

    Still, taut and tense, and a great watch. Affleck is undeniably one of the best going right now!

    • totally agree. you have just got across what I was trying to. A great year for film indeed but some Oscar choices where either weak or very close. I saw better films not nominated. I tried to get across that it may not necessarily be the best film of the year in my view but as a choice for The Academy, I also see why they went for it.

  5. I’m particularly glad that you managed to overlook the historical inaccuracies in and artistic liberties that Affleck took with his possible magnum opus. Simply put, his personal shaping of this psuedo-personal story made for a better movie. A lot of people don’t realize how some of the most classic and storied franchises in historical narrative cinema are based on “lies” (artistic freedom).

    On another note, while I certainly don’t look at ‘Argo’ as the “best” film of the year, I don’t have a problem with it winning. It was a great movie, and I enjoyed it a lot. Anyone who’s anyone knows that the Academy never necessarily picks “the best” film of each year — they simply pick the film that they like the most, or are under the most pressure to like (e.g. ‘The Return of the King’).

    Personally, I thought the best of the Best Pic noms was probably ‘Lincoln,’ if I had to pick one of those nine. Really though, my top two picks for 2012 are the horror and action movie comeback tales of ‘Cabin in the Woods’ and ‘The Raid.’ It was a fun March 😉

    • I did for the same reason you point out, it made for a better movie and it isn’t the first to take liberties.

      I too don’t look at Argo as THE best film, but I know why The Academy do and I can accept that.

      Regarding ROTK, to a degree they were shamed into that one, but it was more recognition for a great trilogy as whole which should have been recognized before that point IMO.

      Cabin in the Woods was excellent as was The Raid (both are reviewed on my site)

      I haven’t decided on my film of the year.

      Thanks for a grrrrreat comment 😉

  6. \While the finale was indeed a bit too flashy it wouldn’t work for me otherwise, as I thought it was thrilling and it gave emotions to dry first part of the movie. I thought it was a good movie, though Arkin shouldn’t be nominated, Cranston was much better.

    • Cranston is ALWAYS awesome, remember Malcolm in the middle? It had to take some liberties, which made it a better movie. certainly not the first movie to do that.

    • Thanks Ruth, as an ‘appropriate’ choice, not strictly mine I don’t disagree with The Academy. I cannot decide on a best personal picture to be honest.

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