Best Picture Winner An All-Around Good Movie
Argo shines as a thriller, but also as a good historical drama
Argo is an excellent, all-around good movie. It is billed as a fast-paced thriller, and though I would agree with that, I was more fascinated with the historical dramatic aspects of the film.
Recently walking away with the Best Picture Oscar, Argo tells the previously unknown (or classified) story which took place during the Iranian hostage crisis which began in 1979. It’s easy enough to find information on the crisis itself on the internet, or of course for those of us that are old enough, to remember it from the constant barrage of news stories.
But this is the story that was not a topic of water cooler discussion around the world. This is the story of six workers from the American Embassy in Tehran who escaped before the lockdown and eventual hostage situation. The six fled to the Canadian Embassy, where they were given refuge…though also putting the Canadian Embassy and its entire staff in jeopardy as well. Enter CIA agent Tony Mendez, who comes up with a plan to get the six out of the Canadian Embassy as well as out of Iran. Based on a true plan implemented and carried out by Mendez, Argo becomes all the more riveting when you know it is based on an actual escape story.
This is not just some Hollywood idea (I’m sure a fair amount of creative license was taken, but the general story is based on true events). Every risk you see in the film, every scare, every bead of sweat is reminiscent of what the real six, Mendez, and the others (including the Canadians in the embassy) experienced.
Affleck, acting as well as directing here, does a great job wearing both hats. As Tony Mendez, Affleck is controlled, weary and in command. As director, he naturally moves back and forth between CGI scenes (the film was shot in Istanbul, Turkey, which subbed for Tehran), historical news footage, and scenes shot on sets.
A lot was made over Affleck’s lack of a Best Director Oscar nomination and though I think a nomination was deserved, I’m hesitant to say he should have won, had he been nominated. I do feel it is the best over-all film of the year, but that does not mean it is the best “directed” film of the year.
Affleck picked up the BAFTA (British Academy of Film and Television), as well as the Golden Globe for best direction of the year. But, his style here is not visionary, not cutting-edge, not radically different or better than anything else out there. It’s just good.
Is good enough for the Academy? Apparently not, since Affleck was not nominated. (Ang Li ended up being the surprise Best Director winner for his visionary, cutting-edge and radically different Life of Pi). Should this stand in your way of seeing Argo? Of course not. If I only watched films that were superiorly directed, I would watch about two or three movies a year! Watch Argo and you are guaranteed a highly entertaining, interesting time…where you might even learn something about history you did not know! Go figure…a Hollywood learning experience!
Argo: 2012, rated R, 120 minutes, directed by Ben Affleck, starring Ben Affleck, Bryan Cranston, John Goodman, Alan Arkin, Victor Garber, Kyle Chandler, and Tate Donovan.