"Argo" is entertaining, dramatic and real
Films like “Argo” come around as part of a cycle. Movies of this variety are of different consistencies and flavors but they all centralize around one goal: to evoke the spirit of the ‘70s and early ‘80s as palatable and intriguing for postmodern filmgoers. With each passing year, these departed decades become more willing to bend to our cries for comforting nostalgia. “Remember the Titans” and “Invincible” channeled this energy into football, “Boogie Nights” into an endearing but sordid world of so-called filmmakers and “Dazed & Confused” into a last day of school no one could forget. “Argo” heads for a spy angle on wistful remembrance of this era gone away, and its impact is memorable.
Affleck's career has been plagued by ups and downs
Let’s just get it out in the open: Ben Affleck’s film career has had more ups and downs than a mountain range gone wild. A favorite of the vulgar yet prodigious indie director Kevin Smith, he got his start in films like “Mallrats” and “Chasing Amy.” But it was 1997’s “Good Will Hunting,” a film that won he and his writing partner and costar Matt Damon an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay, that seemingly cemented him as a Hollywood powerhouse. Soon, though, a few movies with Michael Bay — see “Armageddon” and “Pearl Harbor”... wait, actually don’t — and starring roles in “Daredevil” and “Gigli” rendered this early promise annulled.
Around 2007, “Gone Baby Gone” was released with Affleck at the director’s helm. The film met critical and commercial success, thus sounding the fanfare of a birthright reclaimed. 2010’s “The Town” was likewise celebrated to an even greater degree and this one had him acting, writing and directing with respectable congruence. “Argo” keeps this car running, proving that the direction Affleck needed for his career was always in his own psyche.
Iranian hostage crisis serves as the backdrop
The film details a story of revolution and rescue. A U.S. Embassy is taken hostage in Iran but several federal office grunts escape to the home of a Canadian ambassador. Enter Tony Mendez (Affleck), a CIA agent and estranged husband, who is enlisted to get the escapees out of Iran. His solution: pretend to be scouting locations for a sci-fi film called “Argo” whose ‘crew’ is composed of the six escapees from earlier. The agency works in tandem with Hollywood to engineer a mission of startling originality, possible absurdity and terrifying risk.
Alan Arkin’s performance as surly movie producer Lester Siegel brings the characteristic levity he has refined into a science — take a look at “Get Smart” or “Little Miss Sunshine” for other examples — into a movie of tensity and thrills. Similarly, John Goodman and Bryan Cranston also turn in displays of wit under pressure. The most notable aspect of such performances is how, instead of cheapening or lessening the impact of the movie’s weight, they enhance the viewer’s appreciation for the seriousness of what’s going on. You get the feeling the comedy in this film, of which there is plenty, is similar to how humor works in the actual world — sometimes as a social relaxant, often as a distraction from chaos and always aware of a world gone mad.
Affleck is an able director and proves to be a rejuvenated actor
Affleck proves yet again to be a competent director and even better actor. He’s back to his “Good Will Hunting” potential, and thank God for that. A few moments teeter on the edge of cheesiness and, for a spy film, it tends to overstate its genre. Additionally, Murphy’s Law can have its say, but seeing that the film is based on a true story, I could not bring myself to believe that that many things were going wrong toward the story’s climax. Upon further research, my assumptions were proven to be correct.
“Argo” is no monument to be studied by faraway generations but it’s stylish, entertaining and a perfect weekend flick to catch.