Argo: Ben Affleck’s best

For as long as I can remember, a movie has been the biggest con in the world.  You gather real people together in order to make a fictional world with a plan to entertain.  In 1979, CIA specialist Tony Mendez(a perfectly understated Affleck) used the front of a movie production crew to rescue six American diplomats hiding out during a time of war.  Argo is the first movie in 2012 to full embody the idea of an Oscar winner.

Warner Brothers

The story blends drama together with a thriller and mixes in killer comedy from Alan Arkin’s director Lester Siegel and John Goodman’s legendary makeup artist Don Chambers, two men who helped Mendez make a fake movie.  A hard edged thriller that doesn’t take itself too seriously.  What more could you ask for in the beginning of the awards season?   For over 75 days, the Americans were trapped and this was the best bad idea in the agency.

Affleck’s attention to every detail is amazing here and creates a legit reputation in Hollywood for Affleck’s skill as a storyteller behind the camera.  Real photos are brought to stunning life here and the real Tony Mendez and hostages were involved in the making of the film.  The post credits sequences features a message from the U.S. President at the time, Jimmy Carter, who says in a matter of words, that the mission was top secret but cemented Mendez’s reputation as one of the best agents in the history of the CIA.  The movie is a riveting and smooth presentation, laying out the grounds for the revolution in a narration to Mendez’s idea to the building of the mission.  

Affleck plays Mendez exactly like the person reads.  An understated and restrained man who put the lives of those people on his shoulders and put his “ex-filtration” skills to the test.  Since his career revival in his first directorial feature, Gone Baby Gone, Affleck has grown as an actor.  His eyes tell the story of this man, desperately trying to piece together his own life by saving others.  Arkin mixes in Old Hollywood comedy and wise cracks as the fading director who used his clout to help the mission while Goodman carries some of the best one liners.

Cranston delivers the juiciest performance as Mendez’s boss at the agency.  Watching Cranston mix honor and rage is a sight to behold for fans of his AMC show Breaking Bad.  The cinematography shows a 1970’s documentary style that gives the story a true pulse and the tension that builds with each checkpoint and obstacle faced by Mendez and company perfectly moves along a running time that clocks in at over 2 hours yet never tires your eyes.  This movie is brilliantly made and deserves every award it receives.  Affleck’s skill as a director is so deft and assured that you think he had been doing the duty for his entire life.  His movies create worlds instead of borrowing from other people’s work and suck you right in.

The greatest achievement of the film is the way it doesn’t manipulate your emotions or become overly sentimental towards the end.  The true story, deemed “classified” until recently, is potent enough to just be laid out here blow for blow by Affleck and his crew.  One of the crowning achievements in the history of this country(which led to countries working together more easily) becomes a wildly enjoyable movie experience.

Watching this movie, I got the feeling greatness was at work.  That makes for a special time at the movies.  Argo is easily one of the best films of recent years.  A film that demands your attention.

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