"Argo, fuck yourself!"
So, I shall start big this year. The biggest favor to win Best Picture in the Academy Awards for 2013 is (unavoidably) ‘Argo’. Producer/Director/Actor, Ben Affleck, has long been longing to take on his role behind the cameras and with this film not only he managed to achieve gloriously his goal, but also he proved to be a worthy contender.
In a few words, what Argo’s about: In 1979, the American embassy in Iran was invaded by Iranian revolutionaries and several Americans were taken hostage. However, six managed to escape to the official residence of the Canadian Ambassador and the CIA was eventually ordered to get them out of the country. With few options, exfiltration expert Tony Mendez devised a daring plan: to create a phony Canadian film project looking to shoot in Iran and smuggle the Americans out as its production crew. With the help of some trusted Hollywood contacts, Mendez created the ruse and proceed to Iran as its associate producer. However, time was running out with the Iranian security forces closing in on the truth while both his charges and the White House had grave doubts about the operation themselves. (sourse: www.imdb.com)
Granted, this film does not scream ‘fun-jolly time at the movies’ from miles away. What it does sound like, is “hmmm-now-I-see-why-HOMELAND-is-so-damn-good”. Without comparing the two though, let’s start from analyzing the film in general.
The story is most certainly a most compelling one. Only to think about that these events really did happen to the real Tony Mendez, has you gasping how in the first place he managed to come up with such a daring and risky plan. Chris Terrio, the newbie screen-writer, managed to make the plot speedy, compelling and above all easy for any viewer to follow, thus not scaring away any non-so-film-lover. As per the description, this is not a very happy theme film, but the wittiness and the vigorous plot line, keeps the viewer glued to the screen. The main point, which they succeeded in this film, is that it keeps you hanging…are they gonna make it? Is it going to work?
All this questions however, could not have been achieved if indeed it wasn’t for the ‘leader’ of this film itself: Mr. Ben Affleck. Of course any film go-er recognizes Ben Affleck from films such as Good Will Hunting, Armageddon, Pearl Harbor, Daredevil and by his recent directorial debut (featuring his younger brother starring in it Casey Affleck in the film) ‘Gone Baby Gone’ – another strong contender in the Academy Awards back in 2007. In all honesty, and hands down, Affleck did come a long way, and now it is his moment to shine as he’s always wanted to in Hollywood. Not only he manages to find the balance between a delicate political subject but also makes sure he delivers both acting-wise and directing-wise to its audience the facts, besides the gimmicks of a horrible situation. His direction is solid, cut and precise. He doesn’t beautify the events of that time, and does not look for immediate sympathy from his audience. He lets them judge the events from an outside scope, thus providing the safety of truth in its visual narrative.
As per the more technical elements of the film, cinematography is solid, neat and comprehensive enough for any demanding viewer who is not really too keen in dissecting every angle of the film and what it means. Costume design and production design was right on balance in their re-creation of the late 1970s Iran and USA. Especially considering the chaotic reconstruction of the Iranian revolutionaries of the time, the production team made an excellent work in keeping faithful with the period’s visual thematology.
And a little bit about the actors, how could we not of course when we have actors like Alan Arkin (Little MissSunshine, Rendition, Glengarry Glen Ross), Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad, Drive, Malcom in the Middle) and the master of all John Goodman (The Big Lebowski, Flight, The Artist, Roseanne). These three men are the touchstones of this film; they are what make this film big, what keeps this film going, what makes it a hard champion in its kind. All three actors, are well beyond their prime but they are truly exceptional talents in the film industry. It would be of course unforgivable of me not to mention some of the actors in this film, which are most of the times easily mis-forgotten and underrated in the Hollywoo-land; Victor Garber, Clea DuVall, Tate Donovan, Kyle Chandler, Zeljko Ivanek, Chris Messina. All of these actors were the fundamental element why this film works. The chemistry of the entire cast bounces off so well, that it cannot leave the viewer unaffected on their personal drama.
Just to finish off quickly by giving also the thumbs up for the astounding music composer Alexandre Desplat. His superb original music score guides through the plot marvelously, interchanging from the rusty mellow music of the drama into the light-hearted moments of the “making of” of the fake film.
Personally, I see this film taking home the Oscar for Best Picture. Not because there aren’t better films out there, but because it touches on a very daring subject, especially for the American people of Hollywood. It gathered a lot of force and effort to be made, I am sure that many people would have advised against this film being made so pompously as it did, wanting to avoid any political characters being heralded so gloriously in the Academy Awards. Given the fact though, that in the years’ passed, Kathryn Bingelow won the Best Picture Award for a highly infused political action drama (‘The Hurt Locker’), then this year’s win would not surprise me in the least. After all, when you have as your main producer people like George Clooney involved, you know you’re bound to be served a good political intrigue. And this year, we green-light this one.