Sunday, February 17, 2013

Argo, or How Hollywood can save the day AND be entertaining while doing so


Argo
Directed by: Ben Affleck
Written by: Chris Terrio
Starring: Ben Affleck, Alan Arkin, John Goodman, Bryan Cranston & Kyle Chandler.

Oscar Nominations: 7
Best Sound Mixing, Best Sound Editing, Best Original Score (Alexandre Desplat), Best Editing, Best Adapted Screenplay (Chris Terrio), Best Supporting Actor (Alan Arkin), Best Picture.

If nothing else, Ben Affleck's lively film about the preposterous (and yet true!) CIA plan to extract six Americans from Iran during the 1979 embassy hostage crisis through a so-crazy-it-works plan to pose as a film crew, has by far the best catch-phrase of all the Best Picture nominees. Say what you will about Arkin and Goodman (both playing versions of their own personas to varying degrees of success), but their recurring joke of "Argofuckyourself" is unmatched in an otherwise sober lineup (give or take a Russell dramedy).

What Argo definitely is is an entertaining film. Much of this is due to the brisk screenplay by Terrio and Affleck's ensemble. From the old-school Warner Bros. logo that greets the screen during the opening credits (yes, the same one used by Soderbergh's similarly throw-back stripper drama), Affleck places us squarely not only in the 1970s of the film, but in the 70s-style feel of the mainstream adult-dramas that the decade produced. This isn't surprising as Argo -- much like last year's Oscar winner The Artist -- is enchanted by Hollywood. Billing itself as "based on a declassified story," the film follows a CIA agent (Affleck) concocting a so-crazy-it-might-just-work plan to retrieve a group of six hostages being safe-guarded by the American embassy in Tehran by posing as a film crew. For this he enlists the help of a has-been producer (Arkin), a make-up artist (Goodman) and the three proceed to try and muster funding for the awfully camptastic sounding "Argo." Whether they'll be able to pull this off is the ticking clock suspense that fuels the entire film, and Affleck does a good job of keeping us entertained, ably grounding the pulse-pounding thriller elements of the film with a bevy of seasoned character actors (Garber, Donovan, Cranston, Ivanek, Chandler, Pill, Vand). It is obviously a foregone conclusion where the film is headed, but it's quite a thrill-ride getting there, from the zippy dialogue between Arkin and Goodman to the tender moments in the ambassador's house and the nail-biting scenes at the airport at the end. A-

2 comments:

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