Sunday, January 15, 2017

Movie Review: ARGO

Welcome back to the Ben Affleck mini-series of reviews! This series will review each of his four directorial feature films. This review will focus on his most acclaimed and Academy Award winning film, ARGO!

Argo is the 2012 Best Picture winner that tells the true story of a CIA extraction operation to get a group of Americans out of Iran. Affleck directs and stars in the film, alongside Bryan Cranston, Alan Arkin, John Goodman, Victor Garber, Tate Donovan, Clea Duvall, Scoot McNairy, Rory Chochran, Christopher Denham, Kerry Bishé, Kyle Chandler, and Chris Messina. This is also the first of Affleck’s directorial features that he did not write. It was, instead, written by Chris Terrio.

Overall, I enjoyed Argo a lot. I’m not sure it deserved to be Affleck’s most lauded effort (and it most certainly didn’t deserve its Best Picture win). There are lots of things to like in this film though. The most noticeable of these is the performances. The work Ben Affleck does in front of the camera is impeccable and he generates a character you get super invested in. The supporting cast also does a very good job in this film. Cranston, Arkin, and Goodman are standouts in this respect as they bring a sense of humor to a story that could have been exceedingly dark. This came together to make Argo a really interesting film that readily captured my attention as an audience member.

On top of the performances, the direction and writing in this film are superb. If there was doubt (for some unknown reason) that Ben Affleck could create tension through brilliant direction, this film silences that entirely. The sequence toward the end of the film is one of the most engaging and white knuckled experiences I’ve had watching a film. On top of that, Terrio’s writing in this if really accented well in all of the characters and moving the story around in sensible and interesting ways.

What I don’t like about Argo is that it feels too basic. This is a good CIA operation movie. There isn’t anything in here that is remarkable. If you look at something like Kathryn Bigelow’s war operation masterpiece Zero Dark Thirty and Argo side by side you really see the difference. Both are good, but one is great because it has that something extra that enhances the true story for the screen in brilliant ways. I also thought that Argo had a hard time introducing and getting me invested in all of the individual characters. I cared for the success of Affleck’s mission, but I didn’t find myself caring very much about the possibility that some of these characters might die.

Overall, Argo is a good film and executes what it is trying to do well. The writing is interesting, the film is adequately humorous to avoid being dour, and the performances are really really solid. This is a good film. No question. But it isn’t a great one unfortunately.

Ryan’s Score: 8/10

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