Ramblin’ Movie Review: ARGO – 2012
As much I’ve enjoyed everything that Ben Affleck has done thus far in his very young directorial career, I think ARGO might be the worst movie he’s made. This is despite how well it was executed. Here’s my Movie Review of ARGO…
Blank Page Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars
Hailed as one of best movies of 2012, ARGO was based on a true story about the rescue of 6 American citizens from a revolutionary Iran in the 1980’s. It’s a ballsy story where the unofficial rescue involves a CIA operative entering Iran under the guise of making a fake Sci-Fi movie, and getting caught would mean immediate death, or worse. The perfect blend of political drama meets a witty set-up. And it was, despite its biggest shortcoming.
ARGO is an amazingly well written, well performed movie that moves along an incredibly tense pace, allowing the audience to take it all in. Affleck’s direction shows us that every scene has been meticulously placed in the order that conveys the most dramatic impact. It’s amazing how far Affleck has come as a Director. I won’t talk about him as an actor. I just… won’t.
The story sees a revolution break out in Iran in the 80’s, causing six Americans to flee the US Embassy after it gets over run by the locals. The USA & its citizens are considered public enemy number one in Iran at the time, so these 6 Embassy workers become fugitives in fear for their lives, as they take refuge at the house of the Canadian Ambassador. Back in America, the CIA has no hope of mounting an adequate rescue for these 6 Americans, that is until CIA Operative Tony Mendez (Ben Affleck) comes along with an ingenious plan.
Pretending to be a Canadian Sci-Fi movie crew, Mendez will enter Iran with fake credentials for the 6 Americans, and simply walk out with them through the airport. For this to be successful, the fake Sci-Fi movie will need real Hollywood backing, press and most of all, hype to make the world believe its existence. This is where ARGO gets a little less serious and more like a milder version of OCEAN’S ELEVEN-like humour.
John Goodman & Alan Arkin make their appearance at this point as Hollywood big wigs who join Affleck to give credibility to the fake movie, aptly entitled, “Argo”. These scenes are pretty funny and light, as can be expected from Arkin and Goodman sharing screen space. The humor of ARGO is treated very lightly, without trying to be funny, but resulting in some witty interactions between the three characters. It’s also pretty cool to see how informally the CIA worked back in the ‘80s, in comparison to some of the newer movies that show a slick, protocol orientated covert hush hush operation.
It’s a well-paced movie, with tight direction from Affleck, but one thing didn’t work for me. The 6 Americans trapped in Iran, who need to be rescued, who are the entire basis of the story, are completely under developed with little to no character development. Ultimately, despite the gimmicky premise or being based on a true story, ARGO is a hostage movie. It’s a story about 6 Americans trapped with no way out, and the one man that can give them their freedom. However, these 6 characters are poorly written and given very little screen time. That was the deal breaker for me.
By the time Act Two rolled around, I didn’t know these characters well at all. I was waiting to connect to them on an emotional level, hearing their story. But barring 1 or 2 scenes showing the married couple and another angry troublemaker of the group, nothing really conveyed the desperation of the situation they were in. And at times, those scenes even made some of them seem like dicks. Despite the previously established tense and emotional setting, the characters were not given any opportunity to show their frustration or desperation at facing possible death or torture. This completely cock blocked the audience from getting to know, or care about these people. The movie spends way too much time establishing the political and situational circumstances that make up the plot of the movie, but spend no time developing these characters that we’re supposed to root for.
I don’t know where the misstep happened. The roles seem to have been cast with character actors known for their pretty decent work across all mediums. Tate Donovan was the supervisor guy of the group. Clea Duvall, who appeared in TV shows such as HEROES, CSI and currently on AMERICAN HORROR STORY plays one of the 6 American Embassy employees. Along with Scoot McNairy who plays a character actor, most recently seen in KILLING THEM SOFTLY. Yet all these awesome character actors were given almost nothing to do. Seems to me that a lot of footage might’ve ended up on the cutting room floor, as there are these brief scenes humanizing the 6 trapped Americans, but they’re too brief to have any long lasting impact.
In comparison, ARGO has a lot more scenes giving, almost most too much insight into Affleck’s character, Tony Mendez, which I found was unnecessary. His personal life, past, relationship status, family members are all details that could have unfolded in the story as he interacted with the hostages, of which there was only a handful of sequences. Did Affleck drop the ball here because he was pulling double duty as Actor & Director? That is honestly what it felt like to me.
At the end of the day, as amazingly as ARGO was executed from a technical writing and directing perspective, there was no emotion driving the story forward. The moments of nail-biting tension as the fate of the plan hangs in the balance, fall flat solely due to not enough of an emotional connection between the audience and the characters. The obvious frustration, anger, desperation that these people may have felt, are wasted in the movie as being shown as a couple of scenes of them bickering.
As good of a Director Ben Affleck is, and despite being a very well told and well-written story, ARGO just wasn’t up to snuff as his other films.
Niejan · May 6, 2013 at 10:35 PM
Nice review. About your last point though: ARGO is if I’m not mistaken actually based on Tony Mendez’ personal experiences. So it would be only logical to focus on the individual (Ben Affleck) and to show some kind of development throughout the film.
Shah Shahid · May 7, 2013 at 2:42 PM
Hey, Thanks for commenting.
I realized later that the movie is based on the memoirs of Tony Mendez. However, ‘Based on a True Story’ movies often dramatize events for the sake of a well rounded film. So I don’t really consider that a good enough reason for the hostages being poorly written.
Also: showing the personal experiences of a character, from his viewpoint, serve to reveal more about that character to the audience. This could’ve been done in ARGO a lot better than unnecessary screen time talking about his divorce and phone conversations with his son that go nowhere.
Tyson Carter · May 8, 2013 at 2:20 AM
Havent seen it, but your words seem to go against all the other reviews and critical acclaim. Not that you’re wrong, of course. Always interesting to hear a different perspective 🙂
Shah Shahid · May 8, 2013 at 2:51 AM
Its a good movie, I would’ve preferred more character development. I had to try to care. So… Yea.
Just my feelings anyways, not a definite judgement of the movie.
cuttingedgecreativity · May 14, 2013 at 12:49 AM
Interesting. Like Tyson, this is probably the most negative review I’ve read about this movie. I don’t think it’s my cup of tea to begin with, so I had no plans to watch it, but your review seems to go along with what I pretty much suspected anyway.
Shah Shahid · May 15, 2013 at 2:35 PM
I wanted to like it, but the premise broke down when I couldn’t care about the characters.
It’s like watching E.T. and not giving a shit what happens to ET himself. “Phone home? Man up bitch!”
cuttingedgecreativity · May 15, 2013 at 8:06 PM
awesomeqweerty · May 10, 2013 at 2:42 PM
I actually liked that the movie focused on Ben Affleck’s character but I like your perspective 🙂
Shah Shahid · May 12, 2013 at 10:33 PM
We can disagree on this. It was written from the perspective of the real life Tony Mendez’s book, so that’s why the movie was from his perspective, as others have pointed out. Thanks for stopping by.
Joseph@thecinemamonster · May 27, 2013 at 11:53 PM
I just wanted to let you know how I much I enjoy your site. I had read your article over at Head in a Vice and came over here, I am now following. I recently started my own film blog and would love for you to check it out 🙂
Shah Shahid · May 30, 2013 at 10:16 AM
Thanks for the comment and compliments. I’m glad you enjoy the site. I’ve followed your site too and looking forward to your new posts.
Thanks again for dropping by!