Review by Pete Mason
Best Picture Oscar nominee and likely winner “Argo” is one of the most engrossing films I have seen in quite sometime. Using the backdrop of the dramatic rescue of six American embassy staffers during the Iranian Revolution in 1980, “Argo” has a truly great story and riveting excitement throughout the film. The scenes that are recreated look incredibly similar to the actual scenes from that day; stay put for the first part of the credits to see proof of the authenticity sought in the making of this film.
Ben Affleck serves as director, producer and actor in this film, and although he was snubbed for an Oscar nomination, he has received virtually every award he has been nominated for, and rightly so. The directing takes you at a fast pace, showing the urgency of the escape that is needed. While it feels sped up, the quick cuts to ADD-fueled thoughts and thought processes allow you to get in the head of the CIA operative Tony Mendez (Affleck), who is tasked with getting the embassy staffers out of Iran. The Canadian ambassador and his wife take in the six captives and give them a place to stay and hide until they cannot wait any longer. The six are instructed by Mendez to take on their new identities as Canadian filmmakers and learn the plot to help them escape, cope with the risks and finally succeed. Even though you know the outcome before heading into the theater (you don’t recall a tragedy named “Argo,” do you?) you are still following along with breathless attention. The style of the filming – with 35mm film blown up to fill the screen – puts the action right in your face and appears larger than life, which for the characters in the movie, and in real life, the experience truly was.
Alan Arkin shines as the Hollywood producer brought in to help make this fake film feel and look real, all the way down to staged press events, ads in Variety and every aspect of the film that will keep appearances up while Mendez and the six attempt to get out of Iran. John Goodman steals the show back in Hollywood as Academy Award-winning make-up effects guru John Chambers, who helped to make the fake film look authentic enough to get Mendez into Iran and the others on the fictional film’s crew out of Iran. Bryan Cranston plays Mendez’s colleague at the CIA who helps him throughout the task, the right hand man who keeps things on the level when things can go very wrong.
You have few other films this year that contend for Best Picture like “Argo” does. “Zero Dark Thirty” is a bore that we all lived through, “Amour” is a French love story few saw (but you should see!) and “Lincoln,” while good, wasn’t as thrilling as getting six Americans out of Iran in 1980. “Argo” will be a great film for years to come, and is definitely the Best Picture for 2013.
“Argo” is now playing at the Spectrum 8 Theatres in Albany and is also now available on DVD/Blu-ray. So take your pick – how will you see the likely Best Picture of 2013?