Argo (2012): Ben Affleck Hits a Home Run


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I wrote about this film way back when I saw the first trailer and heard about the incredible events that inspired it. That was way back on the 17th of August last year and it was aptly titled Argo (2012): A Truth Stranger than Fiction (just click on the previous link if you missed it the first time around) and I could not wait to see it at the cinema.

Of course if you’ve followed my blog for any time at all, you’ll know that my heart attack at the end of August pretty much messed up my cinema viewing for the last part of 2012. I finally got to watch it today (with the kind co-operation of iTunes who charged me for the privilege) and I was not disappointed.

Directed by Affleck (who also starred as the super spook Tony Mendez – the man who spearheaded this amazing rescue) and based on Mendez’s book, the film tells the “true story” of how six American Embassy employees escaped from the Iranian American Embassy one step ahead of rioting students who stormed the place in 1979.

The true story is in quotes because, like any other “true story” that’s been made into a film, not all the events are “gospel.” The very medium of film fictionalises the story. (I wish I could remember who came out with that saying, I want to credit it to little Stevie King; if I’m wrong, please let me know. Answers on a postcard please.)

We know that the Embassy was stormed and that a lot of the employees were held hostage. We also know that six folks hid in the Canadian Ambassadors house. We know that Mendez came up with a plan to get them out and that he worked with a makeup artist named John Chambers who enlisted the help of Lester Siegel to help the CIA to make a “pretend” movie. A science fiction film called, appropriately enough, ARGO.

Goodman and Arkin, what a double act.
Goodman and Arkin, what a double act.

(The best line in the film belongs to Alan Arkin’s character Siegel, who after getting tired of answering questions about the fictitious film says it stands for “ARGO Fuck Yourself” which then becomes the three-man team’s catch-phrase)

So all the main events are true. But the mists of time and the very act of filming the story allows for creative license and a certain amount of padding to take place.

Does this take away from the film or the true events.

Not in my humble opinion.

All this license and padding help to make the film a real “edge of your seat” viewing experience. Even though I remember the event very well, I still sat on the edge of my seat during at least part of the film worried that these six people were going to get caught! Even though I knew this I still tightened up during the market scene. And the airport?

Don’t even go there!

Nail biting tension.
Nail biting tension.

Affleck does a spectacular job of doing what I call, “A Columbo.”

I’ll explain.

In the 1970’s there was a weekly detective show called the NBC Mystery Movie. It featured several different detectives, McMillan & Wife, McCloud and Columbo. Now Columbo was different (and still is as far as I know) in that on his program, we the audience knew who the murderer was. The entertainment came from watching Columbo first figure out who it was and then trapping him or her by the show’s end.

ARGO uses a similar principle. We, the audience, know that the six people get out of Iran. Affleck has just shown how it all worked out. Great premise. Great enough to win the film an Oscar for Best Picture. Just not for Best Director, but, we won’t go there. Despite the obvious snub by the Academy, ARGO had all the right ingredients to be a hit.

Great story, great cast, great script and a great message. Okay a little too patriotic for some, but hey, you can’t please everyone. Just ask the Academy. I loved all the performances. John Goodman, Alan Arkin (I’ve been a fan since Freebie and the Bean), Affleck, Clea Duvall who I did not even recognise, and of course Bryan Cranston. I got completely excited when I realised that Malcom’s dad from Malcom in the Middle was going to be in this film. And playing a serious part.

But to get back on track here, I just have to say that I loved the film. So much so that now I’m going to have to see all the films that Ben Affleck has directed.

I am curious though, did anyone else have a special affinity with the film’s subject matter? This 1979 event changed my life. I joined the USAF as a result of the Embassy take over in Iran and my future was changed as a result. I probably would not be here typing this blog post, I’d be a cop in a small town somewhere or perhaps building houses.

If you were around “back then” let me know how you felt about the film.

Look! It's Malcom's dad Hal and he's with Ben Affleck!
Look! It’s Malcom’s dad Hal and he’s with Ben Affleck!

Author: Mike's Film Talk

Former Actor, Former Writer, Former Journalist, USAF Veteran, http://MikesFilmTalk.com Former Member Nevada Film Critics Society

32 thoughts on “Argo (2012): Ben Affleck Hits a Home Run”

  1. “So much so that now I’m going to have to see all the films that Ben Affleck has directed”.

    He’s a pretty great director, really underrated. I don’t care for him much as an actor though. I loved Argo, I was rooting for Life of Pi, but I was fine with Argo winning.

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  2. Great film and an even better review, good job bud. Nice site by the way, I am now following. I just started my own film blog and would love for you to check it out. Hope you like what you see.

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  3. I saw this film a while ago and at first I thought it was boring and then half way through I got into it and be the end I really cared about what happened to the characters and I did find myself on the edge of my seat. It was a strange experience for me.

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  4. Interesting analysis of the film. Argo for me was a lot better than I had expected, however films of this genre really aren’t my cup of tea so that’s why I don’t rate it as highly as everyone else does.

    By the way, just wanted to let you know that even though you’ve recieved this award already, I’ve nominated you for The Very Inspiring Blogger Award: http://hypersonic55.wordpress.com/2013/03/21/the-very-inspiring-blogger-award/

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  5. We’re on total opposite ends, here, Mike. Affleck did not got nominated and IMHO the Academy was correct in not nominating him. His work as a director, not to mention as an actor, is over-rated. Without going into too much detail, the movie was way too many endings. It should have ended with the plane taking off at the end, and them escaping, period. It was a literal “high” note and should have stayed there. But that’s not Ben’s fault – that’s the way movies are today. Nobody knows how to end a movie today…they always have to end them “edgy” or whatever…never happily. God forbid, never happily. So, point is, to have Ben’s character reunite with his wife and kid at the end….for the more intimate ending, I guess…was just…for my money…confusing. By the time he did that I forgot he had a wife and kid in the first place! I’m like, “Who’s she?!” And beyond the downer ending (and multiple endings and Ben not knowing how or when to end the movie)…I couldn’t see anyone’s face in the film…with all those cuts off the foreheads, etc. Just place the friggin’ camera on the actor, full screen, and let them act for pete’s sake. Anyway, just too many other meandering things wrong with this film; it was just a drag. As I said, it lifted me up when they escaped…and then came tumbling down…at the “end.” So, there ya’ go!

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  6. Good review Mike. I didn’t love this movie like so many others did, but at least it kept me glued to the screen and totally entertained. Not perfect, but alright.

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    1. Agreed! It was entertaining! Not completely factual, but entertaining. I think if they’d gone for the more “factual” route the film would have been 5 hours long! Thanks mate!!! 😀 Oh and thanks for the follow! I’ve returned the favour!! 😀

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    1. Thanks mate!! It certainly entertained the hell out of me!! I’ve also just finished the book. I’m debating on whether or not to do a review of it. That will make THREE posts on this one subject. Too much? Hmmmm. 😀

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      1. Not yet! although I normally write the review on here and then provide the link…*Smacks forehead* Of course you know that because you just said that you read my reviews…Now where did I put my SMART hat…
        😉

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  7. Great review Mike. I really enjoyed Argo, thought it was excellent. I did have a slight issue with how they made out like it was all down to the CIA though. They pretty much ignored how big a role the Canadians played and, not only did they ignored what the British and New Zealanders did (ie. helped house them for a few days before transporting them to the Canadian ambassador’s house) but if I remember correctly, they stated that they actually refused to help, which just isn’t true. I may have that wrong, but I’m pretty sure that’s how the film played it out.

    It didn’t detract too much from it though, I thought it was a really well made thriller.

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    1. Yup, there’s that creative license kicking in! I’m reading the book at the moment and Mendez wrote about all that. The film also makes out that he was separated from his wife and young child; in reality, he was not separated and his KIDS plural weren’t that young. LOL Cheers mate! :- D

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  8. Oh, yes, Mike. I loved the film (and I was around then). The film captured that end of the 70s in feel and context. And ‘Argo’ handled the mix of tones so very well. Fine review, my friend.

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