Argo Win Yourself

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How to describe the many number of things that makes Argo a great movie? Well, first there’s the terrific acting/directing of Ben Affleck, who somehow turned a questionable career into a brilliant one. There’s a terrific supporting cast compromised of Bryan Cranston, Alan Arkin, and John Goodman. It’s nice to see more of Goodman these days (he was also in Flight playing a something of an indescribable and hilarious drug dealer.)
There’s a taut and well-written screenplay by Chris Terrio based on the book by Tony Mendez (Affleck’s character in the movie). Argo so far has won for best screenplay and Best Picture at the Golden Globes.
Similar to Zero Dark Thirty in the sort of historical narrative it portrays, the film deals less with moral and social ambiguity of ZDT and instead focuses on the fascinating and terrific plot of an improbable rescue mission. Affleck weaves real footage of historical events with his film and paces the film perfectly—from the frightening opening moments of an embassy overrun to the nail biting conclusion. I thought both The Town and Gone Baby Gone were terrific, but this is his best movie yet. Affleck portrays a moment in history which, to be honest, I’m not sure how didn’t lead to a war. It almost feels as if you’re watching the backstory to the modern day wars and conflicts we find ourselves engaged in today. Though the movie does not dwell on the issue for long, the fact that the U.S. and Great Britain organized a coup to reinstall a hated dictator seems to be the beginning of a now tense and complicated mess of U.S.-Middle East relations. Though the movie tells the story if events that happened thirty years ago, it ends up feeling like a modern day drama.
What surprised me most about the story was how peaceful everything resolves. It’s hard not to believe that if the same thing happened today, World War III would be at our doorstep. This is perhaps what makes the storyline of Argo so good. Improbably actions that actually end up working. I wasn’t alive in the seventies but it seems to me it would be an easy choice to give back the Shah in exchange for over 50 American lives—but somehow six American escaped through a plot so crazy it had to be a movie, and the rest were eventually released unharmed.
Argo didn’t make me think as hard as Zero Dark Thirty or laugh as hard as Silver Linings Playbook and it didn’t have the layers of Django, but it ends up being a sleek, entertaining, and optimistic flick. It’s simplicity rests not in superficiality, but in it’s witty and engaging story line, making you think, “Why can’t all movies be this good?”

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