Based on real events, the dramatic thriller "Argo" chronicles the life-or-death covert operation to rescue six Americans, which unfolded behind the scenes of the Iran hostage crisis.
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Taut political thriller based on real-life escape from Iran.
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The third directorial film from Ben Affleck ("The Town"), plunges those old enough to remember this time period, back into an air of nostalgia while edifying a vast mass of others on the attitudes of feuding nations and the realities of the Iran Hostage Crisis as seen by two nations during the Cold War. Also starring in this film, Affleck takes on the blank slate of Tony Mendez, a disheveled CIA agent with a shaggy haircut and a flippant backstory. The film shifts between historical fiction and thrilling caper, Affleck portraying a steely eyed spy, traipsing through the entire movie as a confident and reserved escapist. The film covers a touchy time in American history, as it centers on the Iran Hostage Crisis. Six employees of the embassy escape into the streets only to go into hiding. In comes Tony Mendez, a seasoned operative of the CIA and the only man who is able to save their lives in a time of public outcry. The main premise of the film is one that strikes interest immediately: Mendez must secretly promote and create a sci-fi film and smuggle out the escapees with fake passports purporting that they are a Canadian film crew, in Tehran for location scouting. Mendez accomplishes this with the help of a monster makeup expert and a washed up producer. Besides being thrillingly entertaining, it's surprising to note the level of historical accuracy that went into the making of this film. The soundtrack is a nostalgic throwback, though it doesn't aim to be pushy about the setting. Much of this was meant to look and feel like a seventies' political thriller. Not only did Affleck really think about the film's progression, but it's texture, including using seventies' style filming techniques when recreating scenes from real events, including a public hanging by crane and the organization of readings to the press. The historical framing and attention to detail were very specific. Even the casting was specific in reference to the look of the characters. Some amazing choices included John Goodman as Oscar winning makeup artist John Chambers, Bryan Cranston as CIA senior executive Jack O'Donnell, and Alan Arkin as the hammy award winning producer Lester Siegel. Though the premise may seem gimmicky, it never even borders on over the top. The film is far more about the fear of an entire country gripped in revolution and social unrest than it has anything to do with goofy sub-plots involving aliens and monsters. The violence that centers on the Iranian peoples' revolt is heart chillingly cruel and horrific while being vividly realistic. The reason it isn't the best, or even one of the best films of the year, is because Affleck skews the truth by using false starts again and again. It's not the facts that are being diverted, but instead the stakes of the film, heightened by situations that swell with the rise of Alexandre Desplat's score. The tension keeps building to achingly uncomfortable levels, but doesn't grip you, only heightens your fear to an anticlimactic plateau. It doesn't hurt the integrity of the story or diminish the courageous tactical planning of Mendez, the Canadian ambassador or the hostages' predicament, but it does lose credibility to an already fantastical feeling story. The lesser characters are mostly flat and revolve around the plot without evolving past vaguely interesting. Arkin is certainly the most interesting, providing the same shock humor in this film that he shown us before in "Little Miss Sunshine" and "Get Smart." Interesting enough Arkin isn't the only comedic presence in this film. Threaded throughout are hints of dark humor, and the some edgier fair . More often than not you will be on the literal edge of your seat, either in anticipation of the characters' fate, or laughing at the well placed humor. Though it depicts some vague human cruelties and is obviously showing a nation strangled by oppression and violence, the film seems very keen to keep from having Iranians be outright demonized. While the CIA agent's dialogue and footage from American protesters in the film would say otherwise, it's really about peace between nations and saving lives. It's a taut thriller because the circumstances surrounding that time in history were unflinchingly grim, not because Affleck takes liberties with historical events. It's exciting to see what next this sophomoric director will show us.
- FrizzDrop, Wednesday, January 16, 2013
"Argo heats seats and shows it's teeth in the front of audience. Gripping and calm inducing." Argo doesn't pump the brakes on any short notice. It's not one sided, it doesn't force the viewer to think more than it needs to, and it sure avoids a hostage crysis within the borders of our beloved theaters. It comfortably delivers a great dose of adrenaline by polishing one of the most interesting CIA stories of hot-zones extractions and intelligence gathering ever revealed to the press. Ben Affleck, unlike in his career as an actor, managed to surpass himself as a director each time he had a new movie coming out. The more he works in the world of film-crafting the more we witness a great young director who's developing his hidden skills and gives a huge attention to his range. Ben Affleck proved that he's very meticulous with his films but you never sense that as an audience. He puts a lot of emphasis on creating believable and immersive worlds which will haunt the viewer. Argo is the movie that just lifted the curtains on Affleck's true skills. Great setup of the '70s, gripping political atmosphere, very entertaining by maintaining a darkly comedic tone which blends perfectly with the dramatical realism, terrific pacing, and a improved sense of suspense in a movie where guns or not shot frequently. The story pinched by Chris Terrio doesn't make the mistake of feeling too heavy or self-aware. It relies less on cosmetics and more on dialogue and proper exposition which feels pretty real and drives the film into a corner of intensity. The acting is on par with the production, prominently the work of Alan Arkin as the ironic and conspicuous film producer Lester Siegel, John Goodman as the known and missed Hollywood make-up artist John Chambers, and Bryan Cranston as Jack O'Donnell, a CIA supervisor. Ben Affleck feels a bit lifeless and dull. I understand that the character requires some sort of "silencio" but he pushes it too far and takes it outside of the world of acting making it just a mumble of his own. Like I previously mentioned, his acting career remains at the same level of using numb expressions and comedic gestures, forcing him to fail at creating likable characters. Technically the film stands fine on it's own. Warm cinematography, great costume design, and appropriate choices of interiors and exteriors. The thing that stands out the most is probably the score by the insanely talented composer Alexandre Desplat. Desplat has a great year not only pinning work for this major film but also for the other well-received political-thriller, Zero Dark Thirty. I can't wait to see that film as well and to hear his fantastic work over there but I'm positive he's already one of the definite contenders for the Oscars. Argo heats seats and shows it's teeth in the front of audience. It's not only a gripping film that explores as accurately as possible a real event, but it's also calm inducing. It doesn't feel like a rush or a chase through busy markets. Sure, it has it's missteps, mainly the lack of a strong emotional core or a tangible main character but everything else feels like home. Story: 9.0 Acting: 8.5 Technical Execution: 8.8 Replay Value: 8.5 =================== OVERALL: 8.7
- monteraiulian, Friday, December 28, 2012
This prudent thriller is another reminder that in the art of war, in order to deceive the enemy, the public is fooled as well. Argo does an excellent job of emotionally connecting us to the large cast, including the Iranians, while efficiently and dramatically laying out the logistics required to pull off this absurd stunt.
- fb1672039553, Friday, December 28, 2012