Sunday, 2 December 2012

Argo 2012

Who'd have thunk it? Ben Affleck can finally act - and direct - after over two decades in cinema.

Argo is loosely based on a real-life CIA operation to rescue six American diplomats from Iran. It's the year 1979, and Iran is in the midst of a revolution, during which the US embassy is sieged and its staff held as hostages. Six diplomats manage to escape and hide away in the Canadian ambassador's house. When news of their situation reaches Washington, Tony Mendez (Ben Affleck) is called in as a consultant on rescue operations. He comes up with a plan involving a cover story about filming a Hollywood sci-fi movie in Iran. Despite the preposterousness of this plan, it gets green-lit due to a lack of better ideas - and Tony sets out to execute a hare-brained mission, rife with uncertainties.

What Ben Affleck has accomplished with this film is that elusive quality that most films find it difficult to achieve these days - suspense. It's a spy thriller and unless you have done your wikipedia research before heading to the cinema, you really don't know whether the Argo mission was a success or a failure. For this reason alone, the film is worth watching.

Then there is the detailing. From clothes to cars, colours to commodities, immense attention has been paid to the period. Of course, I'm not an expert in this area and I am sure there will be many who will write about how a certain logo did not come into being till three months after when the film is set, or a certain phrase did not enter common parlance till a year later - but as far as the average viewer is concerned, you feel transported to a time three decades back. I only wish he hadn't used the exterior of the Blue Mosque as an establishing shot, to then have a scene inside Hagia Sophia (it's just a little confusing), but this is a minor quibble.

The level of acting and writing is more than satisfactory all around, and Ben Affleck looks more convincing and likeable in this role than he has ever done in his usual American sweetheart characters. I guess the fact that he does not use his typical Hollywood grin to get through this role, is what really makes it work! As a director, his job is to convey the story in a gripping manner and that he has done extremely well. His Gone Baby Gone (2007) showed promise, but was not powerful enough to convince me. And I thought The Town was actually quite a weak film. But with Argo, he has definitely established himself as a very competent director.

There is already a lot of criticism about the black-and-white depiction of Iranians in the film, and the downplaying of the Canadian contribution to this mission. I agree with some of the criticism, but I haven't forgotten that I chose to go and watch a Hollywood film on the subject, rather than read properly researched reports. As long as this film is seen as a cinematic re-telling of events, and not as an actual historical docu-drama, it is an entertaining, suspenseful two hours of Hollywood - and therefore highly recommended.

1 comment:

  1. Not the most perfect movie I’ve seen this year, but is still an entertaining flick about a top-secret mission nobody ever knew about. Sadly, we all know how it ends and that’s what kind of sucks all of the energy out of this flick in the long-run. Good review Somaya.