So far this year, in my opinion, we've been blessed with some decent films but none that have been quite as good and different as what we have viewed in other years. Yeah sure we've had The Dark Knight Rises, Avengers Assemble, and Skyfall but these huge movies have all been franchise movies, not really very original. Last year we had brilliant sleeper films like Warrior and 50/50 (based on a true story but not a franchise or sequel etc) and the year before we had the brilliantly different Inception and The Social Network (again roughly based on true events). This year has failed to really have any of these sleeper films until now. Argo is a film based on a true story so perhaps it isn't particularly original but it isn't a franchise, sequel, prequel, or reboot and it is fair to say the premise doesn't sound money making so it is definitely a different type of movie to the best films we have already seen this year. The plot of the film is based on the 'best bad idea' and I'm pretty sure the production meetings for this film went with the same kind of lingo. The premise of the film sounds like a risk but talk about a risk that has paid off as this film is brilliant.
The film is based on a declassified true story. The operation undertaken was kept so secret that it took seventeen years for it to finally be announced to the public and for the people involved to finally take some credit. It is set around the time of the Iranian hostage crisis in 1979. I wasn't born at this time but the prologue of the film gives you a brief history of what took place. Basically members of the Iranian public were so against the US for taking in their Prime Minister, who they hated, that they attacked the US Embassy in Iran and took the people inside hostage; however six managed to evade capture, escaped the Embassy and took refuge in the Canadian Embassy. A few months later the CIA were told of the six and that the Iranian rebels were going door to door hunting them, so the CIA had to get them out. In they call Tony Mendez, an ex-filtration specialist, tasked with bringing them home. They came up with some pretty terrible ideas but the one that cut the mustard was Tony's proposal to go in as a film producer on a location recce and bring the six out as if they were part of his crew. That is the story of this movie, Tony's plan going into action as he attempts to get these people out. Of course it isn't as easy as that and the first part alone means they have to publicise this movie as if it really was real, meaning he had to get producers on board and advertise it in the Hollywood press. Once the public believe in it then can Tony go into Iran where they will find out if any of this will actually work.
If you're clued in to the history you will know the outcome but if you don't I won't spoil it here. I have read some gripes that the ending isn't true to the history but after reading what actually happened I can't help but think how boring it would have been if they hadn't of changed it, so thank you to screenwriting newcomer Chris Terrio who has written one of the most intense final acts I have seen on the big screen. I mean it is so intense I was leaning further and further forward as it played out. Much of this also has to go to Ben Affleck for his excellent direction. He captures the intensity of the entire piece as well as highlighting light hearted moments of humour, especially in the first half from Alan Arkin and John Goodman. He has made a cross of genres and a historical story one full of wit and tension. In theory this shouldn't work but it is a kudos to the production team for making it work and making it brilliant. The acting is also very good. Affleck also stars and, although his direction is better, plays Mendez in a subdued fashion. There is no emotion to him he is there to do a job and Terrio has written him really well. The six hostages, although with very little back story, are played well by their actors, especially Scoot McNairy whose arc at the end is very well done. Bryan Cranston also stars but has a lot less screen time than I had hoped and finally, the two stars in my eyes, John Goodman and Alan Arkin. The banter between them and the delivery of their dialogue is great. One of the best lines is Goodman speaking to Affleck and saying, 'you could teach a monkey to direct a film in two days', which I thought was great especially since he was saying it to the actual director of the film. There are many top actors who show up in this film even if it is for a minor role.
The story is very well handled. It will have its critics for its accuracy but from what I've read it is fairly on the money. The parts that have been omitted seem like they have been taken out for dramatic reason and to not over complicate things which I think is fair enough. Many of these films have to waver slightly from the truth as the truth doesn't always make perfect fiction. Truth has no structure and the small bits that have been reworked are so they fit to a fiction formula. The film plays like two films with the first filled with more humour and witty remarks and the second being nerve racking tension that I never thought I could bare. Seriously this is so tense it is unbelievable.
There aren't really any negatives I have with the film. It does lack back story to the characters but I felt that this only added to the whole notion that this was kept completely top secret. There is a small sub plot involving Mendez and his family which doesn't pop up enough to make us care but at least gives us something about him. The film is the unbelievable story and it is the humour and tension that this film racks up to the nines. Don't be put off by its content because you will not be disappointed, this is without a doubt one of the films of the year. Oscar nods have already been touted for this film. It should definitely be up for Best Picture but even more so for Best Director. Affleck has recreated the 70/80s right down to the hair styles. Even the production company logos at the beginning are in a 70's fashion. As soon as it starts you are in Affleck's world and it isn't until you breathe after you've left the theatre that you come back to yours. A top, top film.
Pros: Hooks you in and makes you feel involved. You are only routing one way throughout and you really do care if they make it.
Cons: Lack of back story but I'm happy to overlook that.
9 / 10
Top 10 of 2012 so far:
1. The Dark Knight Rises 10 / 10
2. Argo 9 / 10
3. Skyfall 8.5 / 10
4. The Hunger Games 8 / 10
5. Snow White And The Huntsman 8 / 10
6. Avengers Assemble 7.5 / 10
7. Looper 7.5 / 10
8. Ted 7.5 / 10
9. 21 Jump Street 7.5 / 10
10. Lawless 7 / 10