Reel Matt

This blog started as my movie marathon — watching a movie a day for a whole year — and has continued as a place for me to write reviews about movies, TV, and various other items.

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Argo

Film #72

THE PLOT

As the Iranian revolution reaches a boiling point, a CIA ‘exfiltration’ specialist concocts a risky plan to free six Americans who have found shelter at the home of the Canadian ambassador.

Year 1, Day 71

BEFORE: Today is a great day. Argo is the first advance screening of the school year. From time to time, the studios release passes to see films before they come out in theaters, like for professional critics to go and watch so they can write their review.

Not only have I been looking forward to seeing this film, but the director Ben Affleck will also be staying for a Q&A afterwards.

The cast is enormous with Bryan Cranston (last seen in The Lincoln Lawyer), Alan Arkin (last seen in Glengarry Glen Ross), Zeljko Ivanek (last seen in The Bourne Legacy), Bob Gunton (also last seen in The Lincoln Lawyer), and newbie to the marathon, John Goodman.

If you couldn’t tell, I have very high expectations for this film and have been waiting to see it for a while. I’ve seen and enjoyed Affleck’s The Town and I’m confident in his work.

AFTER: This was a close one. I’m not talking about the quality of the film; Argo a resounding grand slam. What was scary was that I was so close to not being able to see it. I got in line at 4:00; three hours before the screening was scheduled to start. I was tenth in line. Fast forward three hours to 7:00 when the theater staff is informing everyone in line that unfortunately the theater is filled to capacity with members from the Academy who are VIPs with reservations. My heart dropped; I wouldn’t be seeing the film. Five minutes later, the theater staff comes back and says, “Actually, we do have room. Right this way.” And sure enough, shortly after 7:00, I was sitting in the front row ready to watch Argo.

I said Argo is a grand slam and I’d like to elaborate on that analogy. This is a film that grows on you and gets better as events unfold. Like a grand slam, the batter isn’t positive if the ball is going out of the park after he makes contact with the bat. Being very historical in nature, the film is about the Iranian hostage crisis, it has a big roadblock to pass; context. What events led up to the capture of the U.S. Embassy in Iran and why should we care about these people. Affleck uses a montage of storyboards, historical footage, and recreated footage to tell the history of the leaders of Iran, the U.S. involvement, and the eventual revolt from Iranians. The montage was successful in that I was able to get the gist of what happened, but there was a lot of information that was just lost on me. It’s like watching the ball leave the pitchers hand and approaching home plate. The batter questions whether or not to swing.

Now that the context is set up, the film begins to pick up pace. The options of how to go about rescuing six hiding Americans are laid out and “The Hollywood Option” is chosen. It’s a crazy idea with almost no chance of success but it’s interesting. It pulls you into the film. The batter begins his swing, committing to the hit.

Argo is littered with little comedic bits to lighten up the suspense and tension of the politics and the CIA mission. Affleck does a great job balancing these many aspects of the film. He builds up the tension with the Republican Guard finding out about the hidden Americans. Then comes the release as John Chambers (John Goodman) makes a remark about how a rhesus monkey could learn how to direct a Hollywood film in a day. The ball is soaring and is getting ready to leave the park.

Finally the ending. The mission is in full swing and there’s no turning back. Kevin Harkins/Tony Mendez (Ben Affleck) is in Iran and he’s prepared the refugees for evacuation. So as not to spoil anything, I’ll just say that lots of shit happens; problems arise, information is being spread. For the last 40 or so minutes of the film, I was on the edge of my seat, adrenaline coursing through my body. The ball had left the stadium. Grand slam.

I really cannot say enough good things about this film. I was a bit nervous in the beginning with the montage, but I’m glad I stuck with it because it is so worth it. What an incredible and diverse cast. Every five minutes I kept recognizing another actor from that show or that film. It’s amazing how many people are in this film. And there wasn’t one bad link either. Across the board the performances were stellar.

And to top it all off, there was the Q&A with Ben Affleck after the film. Of the few Q&As I’ve been fortunate enough to attend, Affleck is by far the best. He is such a cool, funny, and down-to-earth guy. There is no celebrity, I art better than thou, persona about him. He is just a regular guy who was answering some questions. The most interesting piece of information for me; Affleck is working on a Whitey Bulger film with Matt Damon as Bulger himself. I want to see that film yesterday. Bad news is it’ll probably be at least another year or two before it happens.

In case it hasn’t been clear you should see this film when it comes out on October 12. I’ll even go so far as to say that Argo should receive a Best Picture nomination. There are still a few months left until Oscar season is in full swing, but as of now, this is at the top of my list of 2012 films.

RATING: 5 out of 5