Monday, November 5, 2012

Argo



Starring: Ben Affleck, Bryan Cranston, John Goodman, Alan Arkin
Director:  Ben Affleck
Running Time: 2 hours
Rating: R

Ben Affleck’s direction of “Argo” outshines his portrayal of Tony Mendez, the reserved CIA specialist who accomplished what was thought to be an impossible feat. For political junkies (you know who you are), the story of “Argo” is like heroin. This smart, political thriller tells the recently declassified story of how 6 American hostages were rescued from Tehran, Iran during the Iran Hostage Crisis in 1979.

The alarming intro scene throws you into a world of chaos and disarray – machine guns are like purses and bodies hang like traffic lights. Except for a few scenes showing Mendez’s relationship with his son (or lack thereof), the drama and action does not let up. Affleck is likeable, but a bit one-noted in this performance. The stronger roles are the supporting ones – humor from Alan Arkin (not Alda, I easily get them confused), John Goodman and of course, everyone’s favorite, Bryan “Mr. White” Cranston. The hostages, though mostly unknowns, show an array of emotions: they are terrified, delirious, and sadly have succumbed to the situation. They play knowing a secret well – that look and attitude we all give off when we’re trying to get away with something. Their portrayal of these people in this horrifying situation couldn't be more honest.

I don’t want to give away too many plot points, but of all the crazy ideas on how to rescue these hostages, the CIA decides they’ll pretend to be making a movie – I always love the “movie within a movie” premise. Affleck uses many continuous shots in the film, where we follow characters from one room to another without cutting. It’s not always easy to watch, but it’s more realistic than the quick shots we’re so used to in film these days. Real news clips from the Today Show with Tom Brokaw, historical presidential speeches and video footage –which may or may not have been real - add to the genuine representation of the time period. There are also no cell phones, obviously. It was a reminder of how inconvenient it was when you had to call someone’s house and hope they’re home.

My pulse raced and I got goose bumps, knowing that one wrong move could ruin everything. I became so invested in what would happen to these characters. The film has already gotten some Oscar buzz (the season is fast approaching!!) and rightfully so. “Argo” is a brilliant combination of politics, humor, suspense and hope. It’s crazy to think the government kept this story hidden for so long.

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