December 15, 2012
There's no doubt about it: Argo is one of the best films of 2012.
From the moment I saw the trailer for Ben Affleck’s Argo in cinemas, I was desperate to see it. The fact that I was unsure whether it was a comedy, drama or thriller was entirely irrelevant. Unaware of the real-life events that inspired this adaptation only made the movie more appealing. When the lovely Old Market Hall in Shrewsbury invited me to watch and review Argo, I jumped at the chance to see if it lived up to my high expectations. Not only did it live up to them, it even managed to exceed them.
During the Iranian revolution in late 1979, militants storm the US embassy in Tehran; taking 52 Americans hostage. Amidst the chaos six Americans slip away, finding refuge in the home of the Canadian ambassador. It’s only a matter of time before the Americans are discovered, and killed. Tony Mendez (Ben Affleck), CIA exfiltration specialist, is assigned the task of getting them home safely. With few options and time at the essence, Mendez devises a daring plan: the Americans are the production crew of a Canadian sci-fi film project, location scouting in Iran.
I can’t remember the last time I was so emotionally involved in a film that I spent the last third on the edge of my seat, genuinely concerned for the outcome of all the characters. The level of suspense was almost stressful, in the least negative way possible. Argo is the most engaging, gripping and claustrophobic films I’ve ever had the delight to watch. The pacing doesn’t slip for a second; I hung onto the end of every well constructed, cleverly written sentence. Although I haven’t seen Ben Affleck’s other directorial efforts, I’m certain he’s one of the most talented directors of his generation with more than enough potential to be the next Clint Eastwood.
The casting in Argo is perfect; Scoot McNairy (Killing Them Softly), Bryan Cranston and John Goodman are especially brilliant. Unusually for a thriller, all the characters are loveable; I found myself rooting for even the characters I initially disliked. Much like Gus Van Sant’s Milk, the credits are preluded by photos of the real life stars of Argo, accompanied by the actors who played them in Affleck’s adaptation. And much like Milk, they got it spot on. There is one exception: the only resemblance Ben Affleck as to the real life Mendez is a really, really good beard.
Argo’s combination of sharp dialogue, dark humour and unbearable tension easily makes it one of the finest films of 2012. Everything about it is fantastic: the cast, the attention to detail; the excitement. The only thing that prevents Argo from being the perfect film is my doubt that it would be just as engrossing on the re-watch.