Directed by: Ben Affleck
Written by: Chris Terrio
Cinematography by: Rodrigo Prieto
Starring: Ben Affleck, Bryan Cranston,
Alan Arkin, John Goodman
I walked into the theater, opening night, and I was the only 23 year old in the room. Granted, I look about 40, but even if that was the case, I’d still have been half the room’s age. Everyone in there was probably 23 when the events depicted in the film took place.
The film opens with an old school Warner Brothers’ logo from the 70s. Now already I’m transported back to All the President’s Men (1976), The Conversation (1974), and Taxi Driver (1976), to name a few. This film embraces that wholeheartedly, and I’m not just talking about the production value. I’m talking the sheer aesthetics in putting together this picture to reflect upon, while simultaneously reliving the time period it so perfectly captures.
From the creative opening storyboard, to throwing us deep into the heat of the conflict, to watching a table read of the fake film in question, the film never forgets the fine line it’s balancing itself on. Ten minutes into the flick, and I was on the edge of my seat, as confidential documents failed to be shredded/incinerated in time, and armed civilians moved into the embassy. Do I know how this story ends? Sure, but does it still make the hair on my arms stand up at every instance of the six hostages almost being found out? Every damn time.
Six Americans managed to escape the Iran hostage crisis at the U.S. embassy in 1979, finding safe haven at the Canadian ambassador’s house. Now it’s up to the CIA, the Canadians, a scruffy looking Ben Affleck, and a hilarious duo of John Goodman and Alan Arkin, to get them out, all by way of a fake science-fiction adventure film. Absurd is an understatement, but this film not only runs with it what is now a declassified true story, it single handily makes you laugh out loud one minute and then puts a gun to your head and watches you sweat the next minute.
There’s a moment when the CIA is planning this rescue operation–when it’s still not obvious that what will soon be known as the “Canadian Caper” is the “best bad idea” they’ve got–in which someone proposes to turn the six Americans into Canadian peacekeepers, sent to Iran to check on crops, and living conditions. He holds up an image, of an impoverished black child with no food, to which someone blurts out, “Those kids are black. Those are African kids.” I died with fits of laughter. Surprisingly, no one laughed until the following lines, of “We can get ethnically appropriate kids.” / “Are there starving kids in Iran?” / “I’m sure we can find skinny kids in Iran.” There are moments like this in the entire film that just had me grinning, and not even because the lines being spoken were particularly funny. It was just amazing to live those lives and those interactions.
The film on all levels, just gets what it is. It’s a political thriller running parallel with a Hollywood satire, and then both genres collide to create a perfect little gem, that is never watered down for an audience, yet keeps its fair share of thrills for them. Politics (and historical inaccuracy) be damned. Personally, I just don’t see how Argo doesn’t make the Academy’s top ten (or random nine). Even if it decides to go back to top five, I firmly believe it’s spot is secured; and not just with Best Picture, but with Best Director, Best Supporting Actor (take your pick with Goodman, Arkin, Cranston, etc.), and even Best Screenplay. Affleck nailed it, in every possible way. This film is seamless perfection, recalling the late, great, Sidney Lumet. Tense, taut, and insanely funny when it wants to be, it harkens back to an era of filmmaking rarely seen or appreciated these days.
P.S. If Argo fuck yourself doesn’t become a national slogan and/or battle cry, then something is seriously wrong with the world.
P.P.S. When, not if, Affleck receives an Oscar (of any sort) for this flick, I want whoever reads his name to just say Affleck, you the bomb in Phantoms, yo! That is all.