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I occasionally see movies in pairs, in that I will go to one movie and then stick around for another. It makes for an easy night of entertainment if I have nothing else better to do. Last Friday was one such night. In addition to seeing Taken 2, I caught a showing of writer/director Ben Affleck’s new movie Argo.
Before I get started talking about the movie, who would have ever predicted that Ben Affleck of Good Will Hunting and Dogma fame would become a Hollywood “It” director (especially after the media crash and burn of “Bennifer”)? Not me, that is for sure. Yet, here we are.
Argo recreates the infamous Canadian Caper incident during the Iran Hostage Crisis from the late ‘70s. CIA extraction specialist Tony Mendez (Affleck) devises a plan to rescues six US diplomats who escaped the then-sieged US embassy and are hiding at the nearby Canadian Ambassador’s residence. Mendez’s plan: create a fake science fiction movie (the titular Argo), create Hollywood identities for the six, come to Iran claiming to be scouting locations, and leave with everyone. It is a high-risk plan, but it is also the only reasonable one the CIA could come up with.
This film is good, and I was completely captivated by every movement. From the set-up and the extraction, I could not help but get sucked in. A common criticism films like this get is that the ending is already known, because of history. I say “so what?”. Knowing that they escape is not the point of the movie. The point is showing how it happened, and watching these characters go through this ordeal. Plus, even though you know how it ends, Affleck creates a very high level of tension during that final act. The threat was made very clear and real throughout the movie, and the payoff for that works. That is where drama is created.
The movie is two hours long, but I did not feel it. The pace is incredibly brisk. Helping the movie out tremendously is that it is never overly serious, and there is a strong dark humor vibe throughout the movie. With supporting characters played by the likes of John Goodman, Alan Arkin, and Bryan Cranston, the desperate nature of the subject never becomes depressingly bleak.
No doubt, Argo is the first to really kick-off Oscar Season at the movies. However, there never is that pretentious vibe other Oscar contenders potentially have. Great direction. Great performances. Great everything, really. I highly recommend it.