Movie Review: “Argo” – A Very Drawn Out Face Slap

Written by Jesse Gelinas October 18, 2012

Ben Affleck, Alan Arkin, and John Goodman in "Argo".

“Argo fuck yourself.”

“I need you to help me make a fake movie.”

Some movies have a very polarizing effect on the population. These films are either loved or hated, bring joy or provoke rage, win praise or are directed by M. Night Shyamalan. Very few films have this polarizing effect on a single -person basis. “Argo” is one such film though. I find myself incredibly conflicted, and I don’t like being conflicted as it interferes with my sanctimoniousness. I do, however, have to be honest. “Argo” is a solid piece of filmmaking and another solid directorial job from Affleck to show his incredible range. And it pissed me off to no end.

We’ll stick strictly to the plot of the film itself here. “Argo” deals with events surrounding the Iran Hostage Crisis of 1979. After the US embassy in Iran falls to militant rebels, a group of six American workers manage to escape and find refuge in the home of the Canadian ambassador, Ken Taylor. Realizing the embassy itself is too risky to take back at the moment, the CIA spearheads a covert op to bring home the six hidden Americans with the help of an exfiltration specialist, Tony Mendez (Affleck), whose brilliant plan is to disguise the six as a Canadian film crew scouting locations for a sci-fi production called “Argo”. You might remember this incident referred to as the ‘Canadian Caper’, but we’ll get to that in a bit.

“The whole country is watching you. They just don’t know it.”

Affleck is a fantastic director. He really is, and if he keeps growing as a filmmaker he could truly be one of the greats. The film is shot beautifully. It’s stylish without being over the top, and does a great job at bringing the audience right into the era. This of course means everyone has a ridiculous haircut, including Affleck himself, who portrays a noticeably caucasian Latino. It’s okay; he makes it work. Affleck is always a much better actor when he writes or directs the role himself.

Ben Affleck in the film "Argo".

One of these things is not like the others.

The supporting cast is solid enough, but each is given so little to do that you can’t actually find the time to connect with anyone but Tony. John Goodman and Alan Arkin appear as the two Hollywood alums who aid Tony in his charade, but both of them are just there to spout off half-funny one-liners about the movie biz. As a movie, my main problem was the pace. I actually found myself bored throughout the entire middle of the film. I understand a hostage crisis usually involves a lot of waiting, but my God; this thing just drags.

“You’re worried about the Ayatollah? Try the WGA.”

Now, as a piece of historical filmmaking, “Argo” likes to take advantage of a little thing called creative license. That is, aside from the Americans’ life-saving sanctuary being in the Canadian ambassador’s home, our nation is just about wiped from history. The Canadian angle is so downplayed that I actually found myself getting angry at Affleck almost every time he was on screen. The writers decided to leave out a staggering amount of history, and build a plot around numerous fabricated events. As a Canadian who actually studied what happened during this crisis, I was actually insulted. I don’t think I’ve ever actually accused a movie of insulting me before. The postscript at the end of the film states that the CIA “complemented the government of Canada’s efforts” even though the entire movie’s plot says otherwise. By the way, that postscript was altered after the original one stating that the CIA did everything and merely gave the Canadians credit for political purposes, which received a wee bit of angry Canadian attention.

The six embassy workers and their CIA savior explain "Argo" to the Iranians.

See here? It’s fantasy. Doesn’t have to be realistic.

“Argo fuck yourself!”

Overall “Argo” isn’t bad. It doesn’t hold up as well as Affleck’s previous endeavours, but it has its merits. The pace is a bit wonky and the historical accuracy is sketchy at best, but it is what it is. People will watch it and make their own decisions, and those who remember the events as they unfolded will still have the comfort of knowing how things really went down. For more info on what actually happened during the ‘Canadian Caper’ and to hear the real Ken Taylor’s thoughts on the film, visit the link below:

http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/article/1267937–argo-film-gives-former-canadian-ambassador-ken-taylor-chance-to-set-the-record-straight

My Rating: 7/10

A poster for the film "Argo", directed by Ben Affleck

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About Jesse Gelinas

After years attempting to escape the Matrix, Jesse has accepted his fate as a writer and Senior Editor. Now that's he finished with his film degree, it gives him something to do while waiting for the machines to get careless.

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