Argo * * * *

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Director: Ben Affleck.
Screenplay: Chris Terrio.
Starring: Ben Affleck, Bryan Cranston, Alan Arkin, John Goodman, Scoot McNairy, Rory Cochrane, Christopher Denham, Tate Donovan, Clea DuVall, Victor Garber, Kyle Chandler, Zeljko Ivanek, Richard Kind, Kerry BishΓ©, Chris Messina Michael Parks, Taylor Schilling, Titus Welliver, Bob Gunton, Keith Szarabajka, Philip Baker Hall.

After a great directorial debut with “Gone Baby Gone” in 2007 and a brilliant sophomore effort with “The Town” in 2010, all eyes were on Ben Affleck in his third outing as director. Questions were asked as to whether he could do it again. And the answer? The answer is a resounding, ‘Yes’. Argo completes Affleck’s hat-trick behind the camera and confirms that he’s definitely a director that has an abundance of talent and awareness.

Based on true events in a post-revolution Iran in 1979. A mob of Ayatollah supporters storm the US Embassy and take 56 American hostages. 6 officers managed to escape, however, and take refuge in the home of a Canadian Ambassador. After two months in hiding and their sanctuary becoming increasingly risky, the CIA hatch a plan to get them home and extraction officer Tony Mendez (Ben Affleck) is given that responsibility. His plan is to create a fake movie called “Argo” and pretend that the six officers in hiding are his crew, scouting for shooting locations within the country.

Before going into Argo, I admittedly expected a heavy-handed political thriller but that’s not exactly what it delivers. Apart from the first five minutes of a brief overview of the, questionable, political relations between the U.S. and Iran, it sidesteps any political agenda and gets down to capturing the thrilling, human drama at it’s core. I’m not adverse to political film’s at all. In fact, I thoroughly enjoy them but Affleck is wise not to get too bogged down in boardroom banter and bureaucracy when there’s an brilliantly exciting story to tell. It does share similarities with the great political tinged thrillers of the 1970’s like Alan J. Pakula’s “All The Presidents Men” or “The Parallax View“. The late 70’s and early 80’s style is captured to perfection by cinematographer Rodrigo Prieto and Affleck’s orchestration can sit comfortably beside any from that great decade of cinema.
Chris Terrio’s solid screenplay delivers many dialogue driven scenes but Affleck keeps things moving at a frantic pace and not for a second, does the film ever get dull or drawn out. The tension is almost unbearable at times. Why Affleck didn’t, at the very least, nab an Oscar nomination for his substantial and well-constructed direction here is beyond me. There’s no doubt that he’s in complete command of his material as he leaps from Tehran to Washington to Tinseltown and delivers completely satisfying environments and effortless shifts in tone for the whole film to gel and come to life. He has the ability to capture a politically ravaged country; the backroom jargon of the CIA and the dark humour of Hollywood (that shares more than a passing resemblance to Barry Levinson’s “Wag The Dog“). In order to capture this ludicrous, stranger-than-fiction story in it’s entirety, it demands a maestro at work and Affleck can certainly consider himself one.

This is the edge-of-your-seat tension that “Zero Dark Thirty” wishes it had. With only three film’s under his hat, you’d be forgiven for thinking that Affleck has been at this directing malarky for a very long time. The comparisons with actor, turned quality director, Clint Eastwood will rage on and if anyone thinks otherwise, then Affleck can tell them to “Argo fuck yourself“.

Mark Walker

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68 Responses to “Argo * * * *”

  1. Nice review Mark. AND timely. LOL. It looks like the front runner tonight, for sure.

    Had to bash Zero Dark Thirty one more time in there though, huh? πŸ˜‰

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    • Thank you sir! I struggled with a rating to be honest. I’m thinking I should have rated it slightly higher but I’ll wait till I’ve seen it again.

      And Yes, I had to have one final bashing of Zero Dark Thirty. LOL. It wasn’t in the same league as Argo.

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      • Bah. Says you. πŸ˜‰

        I know I didn’t max out Argo’s grade either. Think I gave it an A, but without any plusses.

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      • It’s top quality stuff for sure. I considered posting my review of The master today but I’ll probably get that done for 2moro instead. Still, not seen Lincoln but I’m interested to see how Phoenix gets on at the oscars before I post it. He was outstanding. Affleck is very unlucky to get snubbed for this.

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      • He was outstanding, but that awards already been awarded man, no way DDL loses. He was otherworldly

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      • He’s my favourite actor alongside DeNiro so I don’t doubt that he’s his usual sublime self. I certainly won’t be disappointed if Day-Lewis wins and makes history but I thought Phoenix was something else.

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  2. This is soooo high on my list of “Gotta see” that it hurts. Great review mate! πŸ˜€

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    • Cheers Mike. It’s a very good film that builds the tension brilliantly. Affleck had a great shout for best director but sadly the academy don’t see it that way.

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      • He’s obviously gone the wrong way politically, they may give him one next year to make up for snubbing him this year…that’s usually the way it works. πŸ™‚

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      • That could well be the case Mike. Some would claim that Colin Firth should have won for A Single Man but ended up getting it the following year for The King’s Speech. There does seem to be a pattern to it.

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      • Yeah, it’s a pattern thats been there for years. Of course if he continues to get the shrug from the Academy he might get a “special” Oscar if he gets ill or very, very old. That’s another Academy pattern. LOL

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      • LOL. Indeed it is. There are also some like Scorsese, Pacino and Paul Newman who get continually snubbed for years and then end up winning for something that’s far from their best work.

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      • Yup, You named that tune in one… πŸ˜‰

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      • Haha! Some guys just don’t get the breaks with the Oscars. Part of me thinks they’re a complete farce yet I still can’t help but be interested.

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      • I know what you mean. I have not watched the ceremonies for years but I still trawl the results after the fact. I find it too hard to see “message” films kick the shit out of great “entertainment” films in the award’s stakes…

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      • I haven’t watched it for ages either but like you, as soon as I wake up, I’m straight into the news to see how it all turned out. As it is, I’m torn between my favourite of the year. On the one hand, it’s Beast of the Southern Wild and on the other, it’s one that isn’t even nominated: The Master.

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  3. Good review. This wasn’t my favorite movie of the year, but I liked it. I’d sure be surprised if this doesn’t win Best Picture tonight.

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  4. Glad you liked it Mark. It was easily in my top 10 of last year and it’ll be interesting to see if it wins tonight. It sounds like the front runner but it’ll have to buck that huge trend of the best picture winner also being the best director winner.

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    • I thought it was a crap year for film’s until I recently started catching up Keith. I’ve seen some excellent movies this year and it will be very difficult for me to compile a. Top ten. Argo certainly has a great shout though. Thoroughly enjoyed it.

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  5. Perfect review Mark, really. You’ve brought up a great point that I failed, but wish I had mentioned in my review. Affleck steers away from the boardroom beauracracy. That’s what makes this film move along nicely, kudos to Affleck and we all know who really won Best Picture don’t we. Saying it’s Affleck’s hat-trick is quite clever as well.

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    • Thanks Chris. Very kind words my man. There is no doubt that this completes Affleck’s hat-trick. Three for three man.
      He does do well to keep boardroom stuff to a minimum and manages to seamlessly blend three different parts of the story and capture just the right tone for them all.

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  6. One of the only films in the Oscar race I actually want to see. Great write up as always buddy πŸ™‚

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    • Thanks man. It was a bit rushed. I wrote it all up in about an hour this morning but wanted it out before the Oscars. Hopefully have The Master done tomorrow and Amour should then follow.

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  7. Watched it today. Caught up with slp and zdt in last 2 days. Exceptional film. Though it doesn’t have that emotional base of slp or shrewdness of zdt, its unique and scores heavily on nail biting moments.

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    • I thought it was much better and more fast paced than Zero Dark Thirty. My choice would be The Master for the Oscar but unfortunately it was snubbed. Absolutely shocking. Still, I hope DeNiro wins for Silver Linings. Thanks Mithil.

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  8. Nice review. I didn’t love it as much as I did when I saw it in theaters, but I did think it was an exceptional movie and the climax was very well directed.

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    • Thanks man. I thought was very good but I have seen better film’s this year. The ending was definitely brilliant and Affleck handled it really well. What more did he have to do to get a nomination?

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  9. I mean, does it deserve to win Best Picture. Probably not because it wasn’t the greatest movie I saw last year, but it’s still good and hopefully Ben walks away with something tonight, That will at least make me happy. Nice review bud.

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    • Cheers Dan. I agree man. Affleck does deserve something from this but it isn’t the best film of the year. It’s good. Damn good but there are several others that I enjoyed a lot more.

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  10. Great review man. Top of my list to see, annoyed I never got round to it at the cinema. Surely if this wins Best Picture it makes a mockery out of the fact Affleck didn’t even get a nom for directing?

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    • Cheers Chris! It’s a really good film man and deserves it’s nomination but like you say, how can they do that an ignore Affleck? It’s pretty shocking that he’s been omitted. I feel the same about P.T. Anderson and Tarantino.

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  11. Excellent review! I (of course) still haven’t seen it but it’s on my list.

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  12. I was hesitant to give this one a go – because it’s not my kind of movie – politics schmolitics – but the wife and I watched it Friday night and we both loved it!! Excellent movie!! Great write-up!

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  13. Excellent review, heard so many good things about it. Looks like it will win some awards tonight.

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  14. It’s so exciting even if you know the outcome! My daughter complained after it that she had a pain in her stomach after all the tension. I won’t be sad if this one gets away with one of the rewards tonight.

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    • That’s exactly it Jessica, the outcome is known beforehand but the skill was in making you forget and be drawn into it. It was a very well made film and I wouldn’t be too bothered if it took something tonight either. I was hoping for more love from the Academy on The Master though.

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  15. Good review Mark! I wasn’t as big of a fan as the film, but I’m slowly coming around the more I read reviews. I thought it was intense, sure, but I also thought it was ridiculously safe. I wanted it to push the boundary a bit more, show more of what was actually happen to the other 52 hostages, make me cringe even.

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    • Thanks Nick! I can see where you’re coming from but I think Affleck could have fleshed this out and expanded it more but the tension would have dissipated as a result. He kept it tight, never losing track of the main element to the story and made it an example of skilfully handled tension.

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  16. Victor De Leon Says:

    Great review, Mark. I really enjoyed this film and it gets better with repeated viewings! It’s a travesty that Affleck did not get nominated. A perfect example of why I don’t watch the Oscars anymore 😦 Good job!

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    • Thanks Victor. I totally agree man. Affleck should have been in there. It’s hard to take the Oscars seriously when they seem to get so many things wrong.

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      • Victor De Leon Says:

        Exactly. Like the sorry patterns that you and MikesFilmTalk discussed. I just don’t get the Academy’s strategy. Like I felt, for example, that Denzel Washington should have won for The Hurricane and deserved it more for that movie than Training Day. Stuff like that. That’s just me though. πŸ™‚ I hope Affleck isn’t offended and just shrugs it off and continues to make more good movies.

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      • I liked Denzel in Training Day but I’d agree, he was outstanding in The Hurricane. (It’s great to see him back again this year with another magnificent performance.) As you know, though, there are always decisions that leave you baffled.

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      • Victor De Leon Says:

        Very true. It would be an upset of a sorts if he wins tonight. It would be cool. But I think it’s between DDL or Phoenix. We’ll see. Once again good job on your reviews of late. I’ve been meaning to play catch up today on a few blogs lol. Keep up the great work!

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      • I’ve yet to see DDL in Lincoln but Phoenix and Washington thoroughly deserve their places this year.

        Thanks for dropping in Victor. I know how hard playing catch-up is man. I forever in that position. Cheers bro!

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  17. YES!! Glad you love this Mark. I was live bloggin’ last night and was so thrilled to hear ARGO won Best Picture. I had been worried for a bit since Ang Lee won for Life of Pi. I really was rooting for this one and your excellent review reminded me again why I did.

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    • Thank you Ruth. I thoroughly enjoyed this and felt like I should have rated it higher but I’ll wait till I see it again before I decide on that. Great movie and brilliantly directed. It was nice to see Affleck take home a little gold baldy after all – even if it wasn’t for the category he maybe should have got it for.
      As much as I liked it, though, my favourite of the year was The Master (review in a day or so hopefully) but scandalously it wasn’t nominated. My next choice would have been Beast o/ Southern Wild.

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  18. Yeah stick it to that snooze fest Zero Dark Thirty. Honestly I liked Chastain better in Lawless.

    So you knew that Argo was going to win Best Picture πŸ˜‰

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    • There can’t be enough Zero Dark Thirty bashing around here πŸ˜‰ I too enjoyed Chastain more in Lawless Adam. Unfortunately, she got a very underwritten role but she still done the most with it.

      I don’t know why I posted Argo just before the Oscars. I was between that or posting The Master or Amour but for some reason, I felt that I should rush Argo out and low and behold…. πŸ˜‰

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  19. One of these days I have got to see one of Affleck’s films. I missed each in the theatre and they have a curious tendency to not show up on cable.

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  20. Nice review, mark! I’ve STILL not watched this, very behind at the moment. I’ll add it to my list and cross Zero Dark 30 off πŸ˜‰

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    • Thanks Georgina. I know how it is catching up. Lincoln and Les Miserables were the only two Oscar nominated film’s I didn’t get round to but crossed off all the others. Zero Dark Thirty was the biggest disappointment and although I wouldn’t have given Argo the best film, it’s still very good.

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  21. Agreed. Great review. The tension in this film begins with the very beginning and keeps it all the way to the end. It is something I felt was missing in ZDT. I very much liked Argo

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    • Thanks T. I really enjoyed this. In comparison to Zero Dark Thirty, this is miles ahead for me. Bigelow is known for being a gripping director but I would seem that Affleck isn’t too shabby at it either.

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  22. Really liked your review. The pace is relentless and you’re right that the film avoids being political. So tense, and the humour in it is very funny.

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    • Thanks again, man. Yeah, I think it was a wise move that Affleck avoided the politics. He could have ostracised a huge chunk of his audience if he did address it. Having decided on a thriller (with humour, as you say) makes the film all the more enjoyable.

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      • It was warmly affectionate take on Hollywood. He has a bright future behind the camera if he keeps on at his current rate.

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      • Definitely! The last I heard, he was doing Stephen King’s The Stand. Not sure were that’s going, though. Now that he taken over the Batman deal. In fact, he was supposed to direct American Hustle before moving on to The Stand.

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      • I can still remember Daredevil and Mr Clooney in the nadir of the batman franchise, Batman and Robin. Clooney’s never done a similar role since, surprised Affleck has.

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      • Yeah, man. Two roles that I’m sure they’re happy to forget. I’m as surprised as you that Affleck went down that road again. I reckon he should has stuck to his directing and keeping on the successful path.

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