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The Kidd Vs. ARGO

Ben Affleck has finally arrived.

I know that sounds strange to say when you take into account the lengthy and successful career Affleck has already had to this point, but, as a filmmaker, Affleck has finally put it all together for his new film ARGO, the big screen telling of the C.I.A rescue of six Americans during the Iran hostage crisis under the cover of a science fiction flick potentially being shot in the country. ARGO marks Affleck's third feature film behind the camera, and, while I thought his first two films were a step in the right direction, there was plenty of room for improvement in both that kept me from fully enjoying them - GONE BABY GONE (an extremely slow second act) and THE TOWN (peaked way too early that the climax couldn't match the earlier robberies). However, there's very little to knock in ARGO, as the telling of these real-life events makes for a fascinating story as it is. Affleck is able to capitalize on that and ratchet up the intensity in this exciting thriller as ARGO follows a rather simple formula in its race against time set-up.

Affleck stars in the film as well, playing Tony Mendes, a C.I.A. expert whose specialty is extracting vulnerable targets from dicey situations. In 1979, Mendez was tasked with trying to come up with the least bad idea to get a group of six Americans holed up in with the Canadian Ambassador in Iran during the hostage crisis there that had the U.S. Embassy occupied by Islamic militants who took 52 people captive for a period of 444 days out. Just before the Embassy fell, six workers managed to escape, but it's only a matter of time before they are found to be missing by the Iranian terrorists who have sweatshop kids piecing together all of the shredded classified documents, which happen to contain photos of everyone who worked at the Embassy. The best our intelligence specialists could come up with was dropping off bikes for them to pedal hundreds of miles for pick-up at the Turkish border, but Mendes hatched a scheme to create a fake movie production company looking to potentially shoot their sci-fi production in Iran. The hidden six would serve as the production crew now in Iran to scout locations while he served as the producer, and with a solid cover and enough preparation to make the movie never to be legitimate, it would be their best shot to get out of the country and back home alive. 

ARGO follows a very simple three-step formula in becoming such a crowd-pleaser. It builds the C.I.A.'s operation, it allows Affleck's Mendes to train its participants, and then it moves towards the plan's execution. Three easy steps with enough obstacle along the way slowly builds the difficulty of Mendes' reaching a successful outcome, and it allows ARGO to suck you into the feeling of not knowing what might happen even though history has already settled it. You still have worry that the six Americans may be located or that the Ambassador's housekeeper may rat them out to her fellow countrymen or that someone may become wise to the falsehood of the movie ARGO or that the government may cripple the plan at exactly the wrong time. There are occasions where ARGO feels as if it may be following a specific formula for thrillers, but when that formula works and continues to get your heart pounding, why do something drastically different for no other reason than change?

The set-up to ARGO is key to making the whole picture work and, while Affleck, the director, does an fine job in capturing an understated performance by Affleck, the actor, allowing the overall film to shine as a story rather than casting the emphasis on individual players, there are a couple of absolutely phenomenal performances given in a supporting capacity by both John Goodman and Alan Arkin. Goodman, as famed Hollywood make-up artist John Chambers, and Arkin, as producer Lester Siegel, lend an air of authenticity to the quick-paced Hollywood game as they aid Mendes in setting up the cover for ARGO. It's an interesting glimpse at the bullshit that goes on behind the scenes in cutting deals and working the press in order to drum up interest in any film, good or bad. It makes for many of the ARGO's lighter and surprisingly funnier moments, which set the tone for the film to really get serious once they move from the backlot to the frontlines. Arkin steals just about every scene he's a part of, including a brash back-and-forth with Richard Klein in trying to acquire the rights to the script that'll be the basis for ARGO. Also, it's nice to see Bryan Cranston used properly again as Mendes' superior Jack O'Donnell. Even as he gives us a phenomenal character study with Walter White on BREAKING BAD, Cranston has been given these caricature-type roles in films like TOTAL RECALL, ROCK OF AGES and RED TAILS as of late. Therefore, it's a pleasure seeing him work with some material that has some teeth for once outside of the AMC series. 

Once inside Iran, ARGO does what thrillers do best, and the situation is able to carry itself throughout the film as we're reminded that there are no other options for getting these people out safely. It may be a fucked mission, but it's the only mission, and it makes for one hell of a ride on which to go along. ARGO isn't looking to break any new ground as a thriller, but it does what it's supposed to incredibly well, making for one outstanding piece of filmmaking. Affleck has once again improved upon his prior work, and delivers a film that hits all of the right beats and will have you instinctually cheering at the proper moments even when you know they're coming. You can't help yourself. You're compelled to give yourself over to this story, forgetting that it's already in the history books, and that's the sign of something special right there. 


-Billy Donnelly

"The Infamous Billy The Kidd"

Follow me on Twitter.

Readers Talkback
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  • Oct. 12, 2012, 10:25 a.m. CST

    Still can't stand his acting.

    by Keblar

    No matter who he is, he always comes across as the guy from chasing amy to me.

  • Oct. 12, 2012, 10:27 a.m. CST

    I fucking love the Kidd's reviews! Whether I agree or not.

    by Stereotypical Evil Archer

    I just do.

  • Oct. 12, 2012, 10:27 a.m. CST

    Happy that this is decent though,

    by Keblar

    It actually sounded like a rich premise. Besides, these days I want anything with Cranston in it to be a win.

  • Oct. 12, 2012, 10:29 a.m. CST

    The script is adapted from a Zelazny novel

    by Dave It would have certainly made for an "interesting" movie if it had been real.

  • Oct. 12, 2012, 10:31 a.m. CST

    Can't wait to see it...

    by Andrew Coleman

    Disagree about The Town though. Sure the early robberies are fun. The shoot out at Fenway is very impressive though and I thought was a strong ending.

  • Oct. 12, 2012, 10:36 a.m. CST

    Who woulda thunk it of Affleck?

    by loafroaster

    That Family Guy skit with him as the lazy douche in the Damon/Affleck partnership seems like a long time ago.

  • Oct. 12, 2012, 10:39 a.m. CST

    Please learn to write

    by Jindy

    The set-up to ARGO is key to making the whole picture work and, while Affleck, the director, does an fine job in capturing an understated performance by Affleck, the actor, allowing the overall film to shine as a story rather than casting the emphasis on individual players, there are a couple of absolutely phenomenal performances given in a supporting capacity by both John Goodman and Alan Arkin.

  • Oct. 12, 2012, 10:42 a.m. CST

    Who the FUCK is "the kidd"? Where's Massa?

    by Ricardo

  • Oct. 12, 2012, 11:02 a.m. CST

    I am gratified by this film's reception

    by malificus

    I like Affleck.

  • Oct. 12, 2012, 11:19 a.m. CST

    are there any ben affleck butt shots in the movie???

    by pj

    i need to know before i plunk down my 12 bucks. thanks!

  • Oct. 12, 2012, 11:21 a.m. CST

    Everybody wants to give Ben Affleck a bj over this movie.

    by Fries Against

  • Oct. 12, 2012, 11:29 a.m. CST

    Bad acting still? You sure?

    by Darth Macchio

    I get the Chasing Amy thing - that movie was one of the more pretentious, self-aware films I've seen (altho it's hard not to like anything with Joey Lauren Adams - been a big fan of hers forever)..but blame it on Kevin Smith, not necessarily Affleck. After seeing Affleck in The Town and that scene with Pete Postlewaite where he's talking about "gelding" his dad ("I did your Daddy the chemical way..."), Affleck doesn't say a word but you can just see it building..he came in pissed and reluctant but when he realized it made no difference to them, the rage in his eyes just sold that scene perfectly. I thought he was fantastic in that film and the fact that it was so well directed seems like it should end this debate forever on the guy's talent and ability. To each their own opinion of course... But I think he's a highly talented director and has matured greatly as an actor over the years. If he keeps it up, to me, he could be a quasi-heir apparent to the talent caliber of even someone like Clint Eastwood (no, he may never match Eastwood's work but he could join that club, so to speak).

  • AND John Carter. God bless Breaking Bad, though.

  • Oct. 12, 2012, 11:55 a.m. CST

    Ben Affleck arrived as a director right with "Gone Baby Gone".

    by albert comin

    Any idea otherwise is just delayed reaction.

  • Oct. 12, 2012, 1:18 p.m. CST

    The Town peaked too early?

    by twogunjames

    The Town was a very balanced action flick, and the last robbery was easily the best of the film. I get that ARGO is a good movie, but why do you have to bring down his other films to like this one? That does not make a lick of sense to me.

  • Oct. 12, 2012, 1:28 p.m. CST

    FU Affleck - Way to rewrite history you hack.

    by Yamato

    Every Canuck who risked their lives to save them should kick you in your tiny little testicles.

  • Oct. 12, 2012, 1:32 p.m. CST

    Afflect should direct his buddy Matt Damon

    by seasider

    in a Bourne sequel.

  • I am still waiting for you to arrive as a decent film critic...

  • Oct. 12, 2012, 2:06 p.m. CST

    That might get me to see a Bourne sequel!

    by twogunjames

    Because I don't like anything Paul Greengrass did with the films he was given.

  • Oct. 12, 2012, 2:22 p.m. CST

    I can see where The Kidd is coming from with The Town

    by I am_NOTREAL

    the movie's much more good than bad but the final act just devolved into ammunition expenditure and threw a lot of what was good about the 1st 3/4ths out the window. That criticism begs the question, how would I end the movie? I don't really know. But guys burning through magazine after magazine stopped being interesting to me around, oh, '87 or so

  • As far as movies with similar subject matter, find Argo is looking like a much more interesting film than Zero Dark Thirty.

  • I think Harry is broke and doing interviews in his basement. Each one comes with a complimentary handy. He basically employs people who will work for free. Like his nieces real life counterpart from Fanboys and The Kidd, and outlaw when it comes to grammar and taste. This has prompted the other contributors to do something more with their lives, like make Sinister.

  • Oct. 12, 2012, 3:57 p.m. CST

    Let all the Kidd detractors take note!

    by Kremzeek

    He is NOT always negative. You just choose to spin things that way in your own mind. Kidd continues to give honest reviews--positive or negative. I don't like Affleck as an actor all that much, but I might check this out. I tend to agree with Kidd's opinions for the most part, so could be in for something good here!

  • there is no other explanation. i don't want to be an internet dick guy but if i WAS gonna do that, i probably came to the right place, so i'll just say i really prefer the kidd's movie news pieces to his reviews. could i do better? shit, i don't know.

  • Oct. 12, 2012, 6:29 p.m. CST

    Little spoilery, no?

    by KonkBob

  • Oct. 12, 2012, 10:59 p.m. CST

    "stereotypical evil archer" has got to be the kidd posing as a talkbacker?

    by the dolphins are in the jacuzzi

    Okay, then how's this? I like his reviews, too. And, for those of you who have been around awhile, you know that I've been here longer than the Kidd, so there goes the theory that I'm another Kidd pseudonym. Jesus, just face it: some of us like his writing. He's not over-the-top like Wyrm or Quint, he's not a slobbering fan boy like Harry, and he's hasn't yet shown any weak spots in his critical tastes (like, oh I don't know, Capone - cough, McGruber, cough). He may not be hyper-stylized and ridiculous like Oswalt's Neil Cumpston (which is what, I'm sure, many of the AICN talkbackers look for in a reviewer), but he is rational, and he calls 'em like he sees 'em. In that regard, he kind of reminds me of Drew McWeeney, and Moriarty was my favorite AICN reviewer for many years. So, if you don't agree, that's fine. That's your opinion. And like Mark Twain said, "A difference of opinion is what makes a good horse race." You're entitled to your opinion just as I'm entitled to mine. Just don't start saying that your opinion is fact. Only the creepy thin man can do that.

  • Oct. 14, 2012, 2:42 a.m. CST

    Argo fuck yourself

    by Bobo_Vision

    Awesome film!