‘Argo’ (2012) deserves its Oscar.

3 Dec

Argo Movie PosterThe premise of Argo is simply too nuts not to be based on a true story. Set during the Iranian Hostage Crisis of 1979, Argo stars Ben Affleck as Tony Mendez, a CIA operative, charged with the unenviable task of rescuing six US diplomats hiding out at the Canadian embassy in Tehran from Iranian militants. Inspired by a glance at the then-new Battle for the Planet of the Apes, he creates a front to sneak them out: they are Canadian filmmakers out shooting some desert scenes for a science fiction movie. Directed and co-produced also by Affleck (alongside George Clooney, of all people), Argo has been receiving widespread acclaim. Is it justified?

Yes. There can be no mincing of words: this film is awesome. The palpable tension combines with superb acting and storytelling to create a vividly detailed and absolutely unforgettable film. That such tension and anxiety can be generated in the viewer, even though they know the outcome, is impressive.The darkly goofy inside-Hollywood comedy contrasts with the grimy themes of terrorism and overly-zealous religious mania marvellously. What would seem like two genres completely at odds with each other are brought together seamlessly and the end result is immaculate. In theory it shouldn’t, nay, couldn’t work, but Affleck has struck gold here.

Being based on a historical event always leads to the same question – is it historically accurate? While it does take some liberties, for the most part this movie stays true to the actual events (a nice little nugget of context is given at the beginning, which preps the viewer on Middle-Eastern history), while simultaneously providing a near-obsessive attention to detail. The 70s décor and cultural references are spot on. The actors and scenes resemble the real deal to a tee, and the closing slideshow of photos which pre-empts the credits illustrates this. Affleck has clearly poured a lot of effort into this project, and it shows. This makes Skyfall look decidedly average by comparison.

The artistic licence that the film does take is subtle enough to add to the overall experience without undermining its authenticity. In fact, certain events which actually happened were deemed too silly to include – one of the men kept calling his friends by their real names instead of their aliases, for instance. The added drama, such as the cars chasing the plane as it takes off at the end, didn’t ring quite as true for me as the rest of the film did; once it begins to rely on traditional action movie tropes, it jars slightly with the established realism of the film. This is a very minor complaint and takes nothing away from the overall experience, however.

Of course, Argo is an undeniably political film, and as such it raises several questions. Does it portray the USA as the heroes, and the Iranians as villains, as is the typical West vs. East scenario? Not quite. The frustrated plight of the Iran people is clearly explained at the start, though their frankly barbaric and animalistic behaviour certainly puts them in a negative light. Argo endeavours to emphasise the importance of international cooperation in world politics, as well as the redundancy of war in general. Though this film packs such a dramatic punch that all of the above could be ignored and the movie would still be thoroughly enjoyable.

A satisfyingly tense, Oscar-worthy masterpiece that simply cannot be recommended enough. With Argo, Affleck confirms his status as director-producer-lead actor extraordinaire. The next Clint Eastwood?

Simon says: the best movie of 2012.

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4 Responses to “‘Argo’ (2012) deserves its Oscar.”

  1. CMrok93 December 3, 2012 at 5:16 pm #

    It was good, that’s for damn sure, but there also felt like something was missing from the final-product to really take us by storm. Everybody’s fun to watch and the movie has it’s tense moments, but overall, it’s not as exciting when you know the out-come beforehand. Nice review Simon.

    • Simon Mernagh December 3, 2012 at 10:06 pm #

      Cheers for commenting! 😀
      That’s the thing though, I read up on the history beforehand, and I STILL felt such empathy and anxiety on behalf of the characters. It really worked for me! I rarely hype a film up so much, but this is just too good not to.
      Thank you! I think I’m improving. 😀

  2. Jonas Manitou December 16, 2012 at 4:19 am #

    What is wrong in this review is this: “The frustrated plight of the Iran people is clearly explained at the start, though their frankly barbaric and animalistic behaviour certainly puts them in a negative light.” If you know or remember the hostages crisis you should know that it is the U.S government & the Americans who who stupidly believe they can control the world forever who really are. The anger of Iranians did not come one day because they heated Americans, it took them decades to react and that was U.S responsibilities & exploitation for long period. It is like what goes on today in the middle east on base of lies behind greediness interests than Democracy and made to believe so. So do you really know how long would that will come to hand them or all of us??? We already seen with Bengazy which is minor to what might be on the way so has U.S had dealt with its own crimes??? Look what happened to the innocent kids in the school, is not a big lost?? The weapons the U.S is been supplying to rebels and terrorists, do we know these weapons will use for after all??? Again we do need to think well behind the real story of this movie and come forward with positive chance… Finally I will say that even not being a movie expert, it was fab movie to watch…

    • Simon Mernagh December 17, 2012 at 7:32 pm #

      I understand that the USA really ruined the lives of many Iranian people, and countless other people besides. I’m not on their side. I’m just saying that the Iranian people are portrayed as senseless thugs IN THE MOVIE. Understandably angry, mindless violence such as hostage taking is never the way to go. There is always a peaceful solution.

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