Thursday, March 14, 2013
Review by Toby Lattimore
Set in a tense 1980 Iran, Argo is a slow, highly-strung thriller, which has now been gilded by its success at the Oscars. Actor-cum-director Ben Affleck, who received a Golden Globe for his direction but wasn’t nominated for an Oscar, plays the emotionally devoid Tony Mendez. He comes up with a novel way of rescuing six American Citizens, who are hiding in the Canadian Embassy, having escaped from the marauding hordes who have occupied the American embassy. It’s Affleck’s plan so he has to enlist two old timers, played by the big guns Alan Arkin and John Goodman, to help him set up the back story, to make it plausible, and then alone he heads into the unstable Iran.
Argo is intercut with vintage film footage of the political coverage of the time and we witness the aggression and fear on the streets, from which the six Americans are running. Affleck opts to cut in close on the anxious faces of the victims and the silence on screen is not relieved by a soundtrack. At times you want ‘the six’ to speak but you know they can’t in case they are heard or they incite a reaction from any agitated revolutionaries they encounter. Everything is raw and uncompromising, awkward and the outcome unsure, unless of course you know the story, as it is based on real-life events.
Underlying the main plot is Affleck’s struggle with his family, his separation from his wife never truly explained, but we have a sense of his sadness running through the film. He works to reach out to his son but his job prevents him. He also watches the relationships within ‘the six’ and uses what he sees as motivation to recognise the important things in life.
Much has been made of Argo and at times the film is gripping but this falls away all too often, levelling out at somewhere between dull and mildly interesting. There are not enough intimate moments just a group anxiety and we’re left with little sense of who ‘the six’ are and what Ben Affleck truly thinks. All too often rather than a concise line of dialogue he delivers a subtle smile of a distant stare. The triumph of this film is the atmosphere, the edge of fear and the simulation of a shocking political situation, but the downfall is that it’s all too easy to forget who was actually in the film other than the Director himself.
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