Argo: another terrific film from Ben Affleck
Published: Wednesday, October 17, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, October 17, 2012 23:10
When someone speaks of the saving power of film, it is usually metaphorical. However, films can save lives in the literal sense. Enter Argo.
The newest release from actor/director Ben Affleck depicts the rescue of six American citizens trapped in Iran, during the revolution. They were extracted successfully through the collaboration of Hollywood and the governments of Canada and the United States. Due to my unfamiliarity with the history of the events, I will not be reviewing the narrative. For some people, accuracy can make or break their perception of a film. My concern when viewing a film is the other mechanics of the film, such as the design, casting, editing, etc., so I will stick to critiquing these things and leave this history for others.
The editing and writing of the film work as well as a historical thriller. Without spoiling the film, I will point out that the story is neck deep in bureaucracy: letters, memos and phone calls occupy the sequences involving the government. It takes skill to make a string of inter-office communications entertaining. Bureaucratic tradition is regarded with dread, instead of excitement. Affleck edited the film beautifully, so that the audience cares about the documents bouncing between offices. It would have been all too easy for the film to lose its focus and become boring. Blessedly, Affleck maintains the suspense inside the offices and on the actual front where the six Americans are in the heart of a maelstrom of death. In addition to causing the audience to grip their stadium seats anxiously, Affleck takes the time to focus on the interaction between the characters. One can feel the terror and frustration when a sub-process in the plan for escape fails. Conversely, the receptors for excitement and happiness are run at maximum capacity when something succeeds.
These emotion-wrenching sequences are rendered in a terrific recreation of America in the late 1970s. Whether it is the original run of Star Wars action figures on a child’s dresser, use (or utterly convincing recreation) of news broadcasts or the costumes, audiences will be not alienated, but will travel back to a time before digital projection and when most of the legends of vinyl and celluloid were still alive.
Interacting in this meticulously recreated world is a dream cast rival to those assembled by Christopher Nolan or Peter Jackson. John Goodman, Bryan Cranston, Alan Arkin and Kyle Chandler (Super 8,Early Edition) are some of the terrific talent Ben Affleck roped in to star alongside himself.
Argo is another terrific film from Ben Affleck. The design, casting and editing are exceptional and enable the viewer to forget they are watching a film based on real-life and become entangled in the suspense. While I knew the outcome of the hostages, Affleck executed the film so successfully that the Dionysian half of my brain took over, and I started worrying about whether the six individuals were going to survive. Now, that is masterful storytelling.