Remember last year Oscar, when Scorsese’s love letter to cinema Hugo (2011) and Michel Hazanavicius’ homage The Artists (2011), each won 5 awards? Well, this year Oscar Best Picture kinda still relates to cinema in a way too. I watched Argo at the theatre (released locally about a month after The 85th Academy Awards, sad) and a few times more after that. So this review came
a little late, but i figure, i need an Argo party anyway.
Seeing Argo without seeing the trailer before i sort of assume a similar nuance as Kathryn Bigelow’s Zero Dark Thirty (2012): dark, intense, mind-numbing. Especially since both involve some sort of historical narrative laden with political stress involving the homeland vs. sandbox countries, with CIA agent as the main character, and based on true events.
I could not be more wrong. (excuse the accidental Chandler quote :D)
While set against a political melt down in Iran that turns into a hostage situation for the entire staff of American Embassy in said country, the movie itself did not solely focus on that. You see, there’s 6 people escaped the Embassy and hid themselves in the Canadian Embassy courtesy of the ambassador and his wife. So the people from US State Department begin to make a exfiltrating plan with the aide of the CIA. After a series of half-baked ideas, where the next seems less infallible than the previous ones, CIA agent Tony Mendez (Ben Affleck) suggest a plan inspired from watching Battle for The Planet of The Apes (1973). The plan seems outrageous but, for the lack of better options, it was reluctantly approved by the higher up.
Within a short time, Mendez by the aide of his friend John Chambers (John Goodman), hollywood make up artist who had crafted disguises for CIA operation before, contact Hollywood producer Lester Siegel (Alan Arkin). With a random sci-fi flicks called Argo, which (during the cast read through) reminds me of a Star Wars, the background for exfiltration plan is finally set up. Using location scoutting for Argo as their cover, Mendez assist the 6 embassy employer incognito as filmmaker and crews to go out of Iran.
The movie started with a heavy political turmoil occurring in Iran, tense with hostile threats and hostage situation that strain the diplomatic relationship of the US and Iran. As the Argo plan was green light, we found amusement in seeing the rather amusing situation where the Mendez and his hollywood friends set up the faux movie with humorous jabs at the filming industry in Hollywood. The tension that exist in the movie never really let up, but varied, sometimes latent, which create a sense of thrill throughout the movie. Since i watched the extended version of the movie (aside from the theatrical version one) i am so glad with the cut and edit they made to the movie. In the theatrical version we completely enjoy Argo as a plot driven story, while in the extended version we were actually brought a little closer to Mendez character and his family drama, which is rather cloying and unnecessary. Sure it was nice to see where Mendez come from, but it was unessential, as Argo is adapted to highlight the event not a Mendez biopic.
As the film reaching for its climax, anticipating the grand finale of the movie (me gripping the edge of my seat till my fingers white), i understood the rare art of Argo. It employs subtle art of suspense, tension, and riddled with excitement and surprisingly funny and darkly comic. The kind of thriller without gimmicks that rarely found in film nowadays. It was just so delicious. Sure, there were historical inaccuracies and some people are not happy, but hey this is, first and foremost, an adapted film, not a documentary. Some people just need to Ar-Go f*ck themselves.
Argo received 7 nominations and 3 wins (Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Editing) in the 2013 Academy Awards. As well as 5 nominations and 2 wins (Best Director, Best Motion Picture Drama) in the 70th Golden Globe. It is named as 2012 AFI Film of the year as well as an abundance of accolades from various other awards. A well deserved acknowledgement.