Saturday, October 13, 2012

"Argo" (2012) - Movie Review

“Argo” might be the proof that you can make a predictable uplifting story with same kind of character and integrity. Ben Affleck has proven that he is not one another actor aspiring to be a director. His “Gone, Baby, Gone” still grows on me with an ending that never settles down on the judgment and conscience while his moderate but effective “The Town” carries another sort of tension that comes out of a messy story into a finish that makes peace with itself and audience. “Argo” begins with all the characteristics of predictability. It sets up a story that is bound to be second guessed successfully but provides a feature that comes together in an end that is a well deserved crowd pleaser.

The film happens as the Iranian revolution in 1979 has these American people in the midst of terror. They are hiding from the numerous number of people on the streets of Tehran, Iran who are in the hunt for them. As the situation drags on for more than three months, the six who managed to escape from the American Embassy are literally in house arrest at the kind mercy of Canadian Ambassador. As the White House staff curses and conference among them, they bring in the CIA as consultants. Bryan Cranston and Ben Affleck as Jack O’Donnell and Tony Mendez are those. As these were being laid out and carried on, it was nothing but a procedural to get to the actual rescue of these people. “Argo” was becoming the film I have seen and began to appear as something I would be unperturbed, unmoved or definitely be not thrilled. Affleck pulls a rabbit out of this film to alter my view.

Tony Mendez knows that this is a deadlock and the eventuality is that the Islamic Militants would find these people and kill them. Options are discussed which seem to be sensible but the place and time are not good. The conference discussions where Mendez shoots down the crazy ideas one by one, he is challenged whether he has a better idea. He does not. Yet as he watches Planet of the Apes simultaneously with his son on phone, he gets the eureka moment. I like how Affleck downplayed those ecstatic moments and keep the tone sufficiently realistic. At every step of this idea which sounds so ridiculous could be shot down and the sense is real. 

There are few films that gets benefitted by the fact that it is based on true story. There are very few films that uses those in a manner that is not exploitative but creates the sense of the situation. “Argo” is a perfect example of that. This is a day to day job for CIA and the way it is handled resembles one. Very little is made aware of Tony Mendez’s personal life and the little they do bring up in the end is more to close the emotional loop for the audience rather than to benefit to the film. He is a passionate person and his specialty in rescuing people makes more reason for that.

“Argo” has some great supporting cast as the real life rescuing needed as well. John Goodman plays John Chambers, Tony’s in for the Hollywood circle and Alan Arkin plays a fictional Hollywood producer and Bryan Cranston as Mendez’s boss Jack O’Donnell. All three are the ones that spurt out some great comic lines that is made to appear sufficiently easy but their delivery makes all the difference. Though the film’s pivotal turn into a film that is not alone here to plainly chronicle a formulaic uplifting story comes when Tony has to make a decision to go on with the mission or not. Of course he is going to put his life in line to save these people but these are uncertain situations with not a clean way out and in real life when orders are given, they were executed. That is a best example of a scene that has everything written out for the audience turns into a genuine nail biter. There is not stopping of the film from there on. To build up to that scene is where Affleck paces in a manner that is neither hurried not lackadaisical. As much as the initial set up scenes seems like a ritual, it builds the blocks for the climax that is one of most thrilling scenes I have seen in recent times.

I know many of the people wrote off Affleck as an actor let alone as a director. I know I did not think much of him beyond “Good Will Hunting”. And I was not jaded by the media chaos either but he came back critically with “Hollywoodland” and then before you know it, he unleashes a directorial debut like no other. Here he handles a story that would have been a mediocre presentation of a great rescue attempt into something else. He shows the character of director Clint Eastwood in making the screenplay dictate the story but he adds another touch of his effectivity to this. He knows the balance of pleasing all kinds of audience without compromising on integrity. That is a hard thing to master and he has already twice. Here he does it for the third time.

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