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Old 10-14-2012, 09:30 AM   #1
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Default Argo - Review Thread

In the past few years, Ben Affleck has established himself as one of the most promising American filmmakers after making quality films like Gone Baby Gone and The Town. These movies I’ve received love from both critics and audiences. I’ve been a huge fan and supporter of Ben Affleck’s directorial career and thus was highly anticipating Argo. Argo is Affleck’s first film not based around Boston criminals and in leaving his comfort zone Affleck has confirmed my belief in his talent.

Based on a true story, Argo takes place in 1979 during the Iranian revolution. The U.S. embassy in Tehran is stormed by Islamic militants who hold the Americans inside hostage. Six manage to escape and find refuge in the Canadian embassy near by. Fearing the six will eventually be captured and killed, the CIA hatches a plan to get them out of Iran. They turn to Tony Mendez (Ben Affleck), a man who specializes in extracting people. Mendez decides to infiltrate the country under the guise that he and the six are a Canadian film crew scouting locations for a science fiction film called “Argo”.

With Argo, Ben Affleck has shown a considerable amount of growth as a filmmaker. Moving out of the streets of Boston, Argo is an international tale with a much wider scope. Instead of looking at street crime, Affleck looks at international politics and the theme of cyclical violence between groups. A good comparison could be made to Steven Spielberg’s 2005 film Munich. Though Argo isn’t as politically charged as that film, both deal with violence between two different groups without actually condemning either side. Affleck and screenwriter Chris Terrio do an excellent job addressing these themes and ideas without feeling too preachy.

While the political overtones do give the film an air of relevance, they aren’t the driving force. At its core, Argo is a thriller about one man trying to save six people. On that level, the film succeeds masterfully. Like other actor-directors, Affleck does not possess much of a visual style, but is an excellent storyteller. Argo is a wonderfully crafted film and the most tense thriller I’ve seen in a long time. This is done through careful camera work and very tight editing. The film also does a great job of capturing the feel of the late 1970’s/early 1980’s through its sets and costumes as well as some great music choices. Argo is also an extremely well-paced film. There is never a dull moment and the film transitions between the Hollywood production of “Argo” and the situation in Iran seamlessly.

A big part of Argo’s appeal is the story. The idea of using a fake science fiction film as a front to extract hostages from Iran sounds ludicrous, and yet it really did happen. It’s such a crazy story that you can’t help but be fascinated. Plus, as a film buff, it’s cool to see a film about movies saving the day. Admittedly, I’m sure the film has exaggerated some elements for dramatic purposes, but that doesn’t bother me.

Screenwriter Chris Terrio deserves credit for his excellent script. In addition to writing a tight thriller with interesting themes, Terrio fills the movie with sharp and witty dialogue. There are a lot of great lines sprinkled throughout the film and the dialogue is quotable while still feeling real. This great dialogue injects the movie with some humour used appropriately, and it also gives the characters more humanity. This ensures the film is never dry.

Affleck also deserves credit for the wonderful cast. Argo isn’t an “actor’s movie”, but the characters are all played by very talented actors who bring a lot to their characters. Affleck himself plays the lead character Tony Mendez. Mendez isn’t the most fascinating of protagonists, but he doesn’t need to be. The film isn’t about him; it’s about what he did. Besides, there’s enough there to make the audience sympathize for them and Affleck is good in the role. Alan Arkin and John Goodman are a lot of fun as Hollywood hotshots who help make the fake film. Bryan Cranston is also very good as Mendez’s higher up and the film also has a brief appearance from the great Philip Baker Hall. Several lesser known actors make up the American hostages as well as the members of the Canadian embassy. All of these actors deliver solid performances. There isn’t a weak link here; this is a very well casted film.

Argo is a fine achievement for Ben Affleck as a filmmaker. I look forward to his future work, but for now he can take pride in Argo, which is his best film yet. The film is a delightfully tense thriller which features strong performances, clever writing, and interesting themes. While it may not be as stylishly made as Moonrise Kingdom or The Master, it still stands among them as one of 2012’s best films.

Rating: A+
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Old 10-14-2012, 09:25 PM   #2
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Well said. Best movie so far this year, for me.
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Old 10-14-2012, 09:34 PM   #3
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Yeah, it looks great. I might be seeing it sometime this week.
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Old 10-14-2012, 09:36 PM   #4
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A lot of Oscar Buzz already for it.
He is a good film maker.
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Old 10-14-2012, 09:39 PM   #5
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Ben "94%" Affleck:

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Old 10-14-2012, 09:40 PM   #6
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That's bizarre.
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Old 10-14-2012, 09:44 PM   #7
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God, I really want to see this damn movie.
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Old 10-15-2012, 11:54 PM   #8
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What a tense movie.

Argo really never lets go of you once it has you in its tight grip. Things escalate rather quickly, and it's a series of tightly-wound scenes from then on that are edited together seamlessly. The performances here are great, and I really love seeing Affleck in front of the camera as well as behind it.

I didn't see PG's review on this prior to seeing the movie, and I also walked out thinking "that reminded me a lot of Munich," which I loved a lot.

I don't know if I can go as far as saying this is my favourite movie of the year, but, it was powerful and moving.

8/10
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Old 10-16-2012, 03:00 AM   #9
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I've never been a fan of Affleck in front of the camera, and the movie perhaps would have benefitted with someone better in the lead, but I think it's safe to say that the man can certainly direct taut thrillers, and "Argo" may be his best film yet. Affleck shoots the film with great attention to the authenticity of the event, and his shots blending stock footage and reenactments work wonderfully to establish the tense atmosphere of the time. It balanced the elements of Iran and the Hollywood developments extremely well, and while I can't say I particularly cared about or for the characters Affleck needs to save, the film is directed with such subtle intensity and brooding tension that the plot moves along and justifies keeping the thrills coming. This is the best film I've seen so far this year, and I think it's safe to say that Affleck has found his true calling card.

8/10
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Old 10-21-2012, 11:21 PM   #10
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Argo(10/14/2012)
It’s interesting how quickly events can go from being modern headlines to being distant history. For instance, the Iran Hostage crises was an event that happened before my time, but it will be a distinct memory in the minds of many people going to see the new thriller Argo. This is an event that happened a mere thirty-three years ago, and yet the makers of this thriller probably had to put the same amount of detail into their costumes and production design as the makers of the recent prohibition era thriller Lawless. It makes you wonder how soon we’ll be seeing “period” films about events like the Arab Spring or the Health Care Debate. No matter how long ago this happened it’s really shocking just how relevant the story of the hostage crisis is in this era of embassy attacks and ever heightening tensions between Washington D.C. and Tehran, it’s the perfect story to be telling in 2012 and with the right execution Affleck and co. are in the perfect position to hit a home run.

Many know about the fifty two diplomats who were held hostage in the U.S. embassy to Iran in the early eighties, but less remembered are the six U.S. diplomats who escaped the embassy during its storming and managed to hide out in the house of Canadian ambassador Ken Taylor (played in the film by Victor Garber). Argo tells is the story of how a CIA agent named Tony Mendez (Ben Affleck) managed to smuggle these six escapees out of Tehran. Mendez’ plan was to enlist Hollywood talent like producer Lester Siegel (Alan Arkin) and makeup artist John Chambers (John Goodman) to fabricate the production of a fictional movie called “Argo” and enter Iran under the pretense of shooting said film in the country’s desert locales. Mendez thinks that this idea will be crazy enough to work, but he’ll need to both convince his superiors of this and then execute the dangerous mission in hostile territory.

Argo is an interesting nut to crack because there are two seemingly antithetical sides to it: that of a tense thriller and of a cynical comedy. As a thriller, the film works well from the get-go. The movie opens with a dramatic re-enactment of the storming of the U.S. embassy complete with the sight of diplomats desperately shredding and burning sensitive documents and ushering out Iranian asylum seekers while the crowd is eagerly pounding at the gate. Later, when Mendez is leading his escape there are moments of nail biting tension. And yet, the film also has a substantial amount of comic relief, especially during the sections of the film where Mendez deals with his Hollywood connections, who are exactly the kind of petty Hollywood “moguls” who have been extensively parodied on the show “Entourage” and in movies like The Player and Swimming with Sharks. The film also largely avoids politics outside of its opening narration (which wisely points out that the Iranians storming the embassy may well have had some valid beef against the United States), so those weary of “preachy” movies about the Middle East should have no problem with this one.

Affleck ably fashions the film after the political thrillers of the 1970s and even photographs the film using the kind of high-grain filmstock of that era. He also edits the film very smoothly and makes the whole film clip along at a very steady pace. However, the film is maybe not as deep as some of the Lumet and Packula films that it imitates. As well executed and topical as the film is, there is a nagging feeling that it’s still beholden to a lot of the same Hollywood conventions that lesser thrillers are privy too. There are a couple characters who seem to have been arbitrarily added in order to complicate matters, a few renegade decisions that seem to go against the protocol of a real espionage operation, and also a few moments that seem to have been somewhat contrived in order to make the whole operation seem a little closing to the wire than I suspect it really was.

This is not filmmaking on the level of something like Steven Spielberg’s Munich, which also dealt with the fallout of an infamous 1970s event related to the Middle East and ended up giving audiences a lot more to chew on while also being a very effective thriller. Still, being “just” a very effective adult thriller is perhaps too difficult a task to be dismissed that easily. Every year around this season there are a lot of challenging and well made films like The Master that one loves to proselytize to cineaste audiences but in the back of your mind you know that recommending them to more casual movie goers would be to send them into a lion’s den. That’s why critics love movies like Midnight in Paris, The King’s Speech, Up in the Air, and Slumdog Millionaire. They may not re-write the cinematic rulebook, but they’re a welcome adult alternative to the CGI-infused blockbusters that Hollywood would otherwise be putting out and you can pretty safely recommend them to audiences of any walk of life and be confident that they’ll have a good time at the theater. That’s nothing to scoff at.
***1/2 out of Four
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Old 10-21-2012, 11:27 PM   #11
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The more I thought about this movie, the more I realised I should have let the dust settle after seeing it. It was tense, very tense, and I felt very amped up after seeing this and writing my review. As time has passed, though, I realise that there weren't any particularly strong characters in this, and this will likely be something I will forget I had seen years down the line. Can't say the same about Gone Baby Gone.

Changing my rating to 8/10
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Old 10-22-2012, 12:41 PM   #12
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Really enjoyed this movie. Affleck is a great Director. I don't think it was as good as "The Town" but still great.
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Old 11-02-2012, 11:52 AM   #13
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Really great film 9/10. Saw it last night. But i missed a important part on rest room break >_< After ben arrives in Iran. How and Where did he find the 6 people hiding? because i thought they went into that secret floor door if they here someone near by. Missed that part when i was away. Spoil it for me please.
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Old 11-02-2012, 12:02 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by HOLLYWOOD View Post
Really great film 9/10. Saw it last night. But i missed a important part on rest room break >_< After ben arrives in Iran. How and Where did he find the 6 people hiding? because i thought they went into that secret floor door if they here someone near by. Missed that part when i was away. Spoil it for me please.
Superb film. If there was a better way to tell the story of the escapees, I can't imagine what it might be. Tense, riveting, compelling and frightening. Realistic characters providing honest reactions to near unimaginable situations.

Spoiler!!! Click to Read!:
Ben already knew that they were hiding at the Canadian Embassy. He just rang the doorbell. The trick was never finding them. It was getting them out of the country.
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Old 11-02-2012, 01:48 PM   #15
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I saw this last week. Good movie. Terrific beginning and ending.

***/****
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Old 11-03-2012, 11:45 PM   #16
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I really enjoyed this movie! Not often you see a movie already knowing the outcome and still be able to enjoy it. But is one of those rare films that makes that possible.

On OT note: US sold Iran 79, F-14 Tomcats. When the Iatola regime took over The Grumman team in Iran sabotaged the Tomcats avionics and weapon systems. Making them useless, They later sold most of the technology to Russia.
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Old 11-08-2012, 03:34 PM   #17
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This was hugely enjoyable. Affleck is fast becoming one of my favourite filmmakers, I can't wait to see what he has in store next. Agree with people's points regarding certain scenarios being Hollywood-ized to amp up the tension but ultimately that's just what was needed. Flawless acting across the board - including from Affleck, who I enjoyed more here than in The Town - and a nicely diverse score that had an emotional impact.

One part I was curious about was the yellow half of the hostages' immigration papers. The "director" handed his in and was allowed through despite the customs officer being unable to find it but wouldn't suspicion have been aroused when they realised none of the crew bar Affleck had theirs?

A minor issue but one I was mulling over for a while afterwards.

8.5/10
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Old 11-08-2012, 08:04 PM   #18
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One part I was curious about was the yellow half of the hostages' immigration papers. The "director" handed his in and was allowed through despite the customs officer being unable to find it but wouldn't suspicion have been aroused when they realised none of the crew bar Affleck had theirs?

A minor issue but one I was mulling over for a while afterwards.
Having worked in a bureaucratic building full of paper files, I can say with personal experience that it's really not that surprising. Paper files go missing all the time, and when they do, they disappear in groups. If they all came into the country on the same flight as a group, all of their yellow copies would be kept together. If those files were ever pulled by the security service (which is pretty likely considering they're all WASPs), they would have all been pulled together. If they weren't put back where they belong, they'd all be misfiled together. Ben's character supposedly came in on an earlier flight to get things ready for them, so it makes sense for his copy to be available. If the letter from the man in charge of the Bureau of Communication (or whoever he was) wrote a letter that's good enough for the "director" to get through, it's good enough for the entire film crew.

See how boring that explanation was? Aren't you glad you didn't have to watch it on screen?
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Old 11-09-2012, 07:21 PM   #19
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I think you just made it boring. It could actually have been incredibly exciting.
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Old 11-16-2012, 10:22 AM   #20
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That was a pretty damn solid movie indeed! Although, I do admit that I was expecting a little more... lightness? Especially the parts when they were trying to make the fake movie look real. I was expecting a heist-type of vibe. Instead, it was pretty damn serious throughout the entire film, for the most part. Anyway, it was enjoyable. 8.5/10.

Did anybody else have problems understanding what some of the characters were saying?
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Old 11-16-2012, 05:15 PM   #21
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eh movie was good, love affleck, but idk once was enough, Munich was a much better movie in my opinion and I can watch that one multiple times.
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Old 11-16-2012, 06:36 PM   #22
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Really enjoyed this. The word has probably been repeated over and over but it was tense, especially the scene where they drive through the chanting crowd!

Not as good as The Town or GBG but close.

8/10
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Old 12-29-2012, 02:19 PM   #23
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Terrific beginning and ending.
I agree 100%. Argo tells an amazing tale and is an incredible edge of your seat thriller. BUT..... it takes an unneccessary detour in the middle section of the film. Ben Affleck just couldn't resist poking fun of Hollywood and he spents too much time following around Alan Arkin and John Goodman as they wisecrack through a fake movie. It's too much of a distraction from the meat of the story. It's a good movie but it falls short from being great.
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Old 12-30-2012, 11:48 AM   #24
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ebert named this his favorite movie of the year.
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Old 12-30-2012, 11:50 AM   #25
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Good choice.
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