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Capone confirms that ARGO is as good as you've heard and maybe even better than that--easily one of the best films of the year!!!

Hey everyone. Capone in Chicago here.

The third film from Ben Affleck as a director (after GONE BABY GONE and THE TOWN) might be one of the only examples in 2012 of a perfect movie. The pacing, the writing and the acting of ARGO is all absolutely flawless. The way Affleck (working from a screenplay by Chris Terrio) blends both dramatic and comedic tones is like observing a mixologist make the perfect cocktail, and the result final product taste so good and goes down smooth. I said this about another film recently, but it applies just as much to ARGO: the story is so ridiculous that is had to be based on real events because no screenwriter could have pulled this out of their head. So here is this wonderful movie about how the clandestine services used Hollywood to save American lives during the Iranian hostage crisis.

For quite some time, this was a secret part of American history. When the American Embassy was stormed during the early days of the Iranian revolution in November 1979, 52 hostages were taken and held for well over a year. However, what wasn't known at the time or for years later is that six Americans escaped the embassy before it was stormed and made it to the residence of the Canadian ambassador Ken Taylor (Victor Garber), where they waited in hiding until the American government could be contacted and an exit plan could be put together. The extraction plan was placed in the hands of CIA agent Tony Mendez (Affleck), a noted expert in disguise and, more importantly, in blending in. He knew from the beginning that the only way those Americans were getting out was right under the noses of the Iranians who had deposed the Shah and were in charge of security.

The plan involved setting a up a fake Canadian movie production of a science-fiction story called ARGO, which would require desert locations in need of scouting. The plan at least was to walk the Americans (posing as Canadians) right out through the airport after they had scouted various locations in and around Tehran. They even involved a real Hollywood producer (Alan Arkin) and make-up effects expert (John Goodman) to set up a production office in California, pick a script, and plant stories in the trades about the film and its casting. It was, as one person puts it, the best bad idea the government could come up with.

Affleck and his editor, William Goldenberg, do an astonishing job of keeping everything very clear as they guide us through several storylines, featuring well over 100 speaking parts. It helps in keeping characters straight that many key roles are played by familiar faces, including Bryan Cranston, Tate Donovan, Chris Messina, Richard Kind, Rory Cochrane, Kyle Chandler, Titus Welliver, Philip Baker Hall and Clea DuVall, to name just a few. You may not know all of those names, but their faces are familiar enough that you'll remember them even if you don't see them on screen for an hour.

But the other thing Affleck does is make us remember that Mendez is not some sort of superspy. He's a flawed human being who misses his wife and child immensely, and his absence on these long missions is taking its toll on his personal life. But as important as family is to him, country would seem to come first or at least a very close second. One of the best things about Mendez is watching him think on this feet. When one of the Americans seems too nervous about the plan, Mendez takes a whispered but authoritative tone with the guy, and eventually he comes around.

The plan doesn't go exactly as planned, those in charge in the States have an 11th-hour meltdown when someone considers what the consequences of pulling these people out could have on the hostages if it's ever discovered that the CIA had a hand in them escaping. A fair concern, but the issue is dealt with in a cowardly manner by the Carter administration. The nerve-wracking airport sequence that serves as the bulk of the final act is built from raw blocks of tension that Affleck keeps building and building until it appears the entire operation is a wash. Again, it comes back to storytelling. The filmmakers make these various plots' every turn make sense and converge them into a punishing mixture of planning, luck and bravery.

ARGO proves that Affleck is a true talent behind the camera, but his portrayal of Mendez shows that he's also still growing as a performer, giving one of the best performances of his career. His version of Mendez is layered and complicated, while remaining a true professional by relying on training and instinct. As a director, Affleck's impresses with the way he positions the truly terrifying elements of this story taking place in the ambassador's home (the six Americans are frequently referred to as "house guests") with the pure scathing comedy of the Hollywood sequences. Goodman and Arkin are a natural comedy team who discuss the town's cynical and predictable reaction to news that this silly movie is getting made. Naturally, not a single person doubts its legitimacy.

Affleck wants us to understand that spies frequently used the tools of entertainment as a means to get in and out of desperate situations. And as unlikely a series of circumstances as ARGO presents, what this movie shows us is pretty much what happened. It's fun sometimes to know what we as a nation can accomplish, but Affleck reminds us that it's also fun to know what we get away with. ARGO is clearly one of the great works of the year, and should be at the top of your list of films to see as soon as possible.

-- Steve Prokopy
"Capone"
capone@aintitcool.com
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Readers Talkback
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  • Oct. 12, 2012, 2:54 a.m. CST

    So after the hat-trick

    by LeonardsBellbottoms

    are they gonna give him The Stand, or Justice League or what?

  • Oct. 12, 2012, 3:09 a.m. CST

    I enjoy Affleck's directing

    by Cody Willoughby

    But he needs to quit giving starring roles in his movies to Afflecks. Nothing against the acting, it just seems self-congratulatory and I find it distracting.

  • Oct. 12, 2012, 4:17 a.m. CST

    After some VERY bad decisions as an actor...

    by deanbarry

    Affleck has found is calling. Respect.

  • Oct. 12, 2012, 4:48 a.m. CST

    fishbowlphenom

    by Glenn

    That's your issue to overcome. If the acting works, what do you care? If you think it sucks, then you have every right to opine as such. But just because nepotism bothers you, is something you need to deal with personally.

  • If Aflfleck gets nominated as director or this movie, you can bet the cerimony will spend half it's running time joking about Affleck. The opening film will spend most of it joking about this movie and Affleck.

  • Because with the beard and with 70's style cinematography, you see him in the ads and he's like a classic Al Pacino character. As his normal 2000's self, you see him and you think, *What a douche.* He would have made a much better 70's actor.

  • Oct. 12, 2012, 6:56 a.m. CST

    Friggen' Affleck!!!!

    by Mistahtibbs

    Guy just...brings it. Pretty clear his best work is behind the camera. Looking forward to seeing this one. mt Oh, and speaking for my fellow Canadians....you're welcome, my American friends. ;)

  • Oct. 12, 2012, 8:16 a.m. CST

    Saw this at 10PM last night

    by Deaft0ne

    and it is one hell of a solid movie. Definitely a lock for best film editing at the Oscars. Go see it ASAP.

  • Oct. 12, 2012, 8:37 a.m. CST

    Its only competition is Lincoln for the big prizes

    by I am_NOTREAL

    The Master will get nominations but isn't a serious contender.

  • Oct. 12, 2012, 9:44 a.m. CST

    leonardsbellbottoms, re: Justice League

    by dsbrady

    In a story on him in today's USA Today, Affleck said that he was considered for Justice League, but he didn't want to do it, because it's not really the type of movie he's interested in directing (plus he thought he might just take the $300M and escape to some island)

  • Oct. 12, 2012, 9:47 a.m. CST

    Ben Aflleck was the bomb in Phantoms

    by I_Snake_Plissken

  • Oct. 12, 2012, 9:50 a.m. CST

    Is Ben ever going to get around to that Budd Dwyer biopic?

    by Lou_Sassel420

    THAT is something i would see in a heartbeat

  • Oct. 12, 2012, 10:50 a.m. CST

    Actor vs. director

    by Ray Tchoulakian

    I couldn't stand Ben Affleck The Actor for years. He was always so smug once he had hit it big after Good Will Hunting. And then came Gone Baby Gone. I was so blown away by that film that my respect for Ben Affleck The Director superseded most other directors in Hollywood, short of James Cameron and David Fincher. And then came The Town. Affleck is now 2 for 2 in hitting grand slams as writer/director, so when I heard he chose Argo as his next directing gig, it was immediately on my top ten must see list for 2012. I'm going tomorrow night to see it, and I don't expect to be disappointed.

  • Oct. 12, 2012, 12:07 p.m. CST

    @Mr southpawd

    by albert comin

    I agree with everything you said except one thing: i always liked Affleck as an actor, but i hated the direction his career was taking, that mercemary attitude to took to chose the movies to make. It's as if he took lessons from J-Lo, as if she had said to him to forget integrity and just go for fame and money. I'm so glad he changed his path and is now on the one we see today. Ironically, by going more artistic and integrity, he has never been more popular as today.

  • Oct. 12, 2012, 9:49 p.m. CST

    For the record, this story was told in late 1981 in a TV movie

    by MGTHEDJ

    Escape From Iran: The Canadian Caper They left out a lot of the CIA aspects that Argo is highlighting because naturally it was still classified. I'm still seeing Argo, it looks great.------later-----m

  • Oct. 12, 2012, 10:44 p.m. CST

    81 made for TV Movie left out a lot of the CIA aspects ...

    by pacinofan

    ...because they really didn't have all that much to do w/it. ARGO does it's best to play down the Canadian involvement which was much more significant. Still looks like a great flick though

  • Oct. 12, 2012, 10:48 p.m. CST

    pacinofan

    by Glenn

    Huh? The CIA didn't have that much to do with it? Um, I think the film would argue that's incorrect. You have to back up blatant statements like, this, man, you can't just toss it out into the ether and expect the rest of us to just take your word for it. So enlighten us. Haven't seen the MOW; sounds like how Munich was previously made as Swords of Gideon, a hideously produced tv movie that reeks of 80s terrible. Why they make such difficult subject matter into a run-and-gun MOW, without benefit of a substantial budget and schedule, is beyond me; they always look like shit.

  • Oct. 13, 2012, 11:39 a.m. CST

    rumourd

    by pacinofan

    http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/article/1267937--argo-film-gives-former-canadian-ambassador-ken-taylor-chance-to-set-the-record-straight I totally get why ARGO would play up the CIA and obviously a Hollywood thriller is going to change things. Like I said, I want to see this and don't fault creative license being used by a film maker wanting to make a good movie as opposed to teaching a history class. Clearly the CIA did play a part.

  • Oct. 13, 2012, 7:35 p.m. CST

    CIA vs. Canada

    by Glenn

    I had read about this and yes, what their consulate did was important. Too bad the movie won't use Mendez' almost-fuckup of the passport date stamps; that could've demonstrated just how impenetrable Iranian society was at the time and created a bit of flaw for Mendez in the film. However, I'm not going to pass judgment til I see Argo. As far as Taylor believing they had better, less histrionic exit strategies... we'll never know if they would've worked. Argo seems to be very American in the sense that, the more outrageous and sensational a plot, the more possible its efficacy. I don't agree with most tactics by America -- it's always emblematic of our imperialist heart, right down to the cultural nadir of how we drool over NFL football (conquer! big! brutal!) -- but as far as drama, this crazy plot is what elevates the film above an episode on the History Channel.

  • That's where I stopped reading. Seriously, Capone, does that sound right to you? Jesus.

  • Oct. 15, 2012, 6:57 a.m. CST

    Avengers is movie of the year!

    by Dazzler69

    Duh!