Oscar season is right up the corner, and before it goes crazy with the non-stop campaigning and critics awards given left and right, it is rightful to start it with the current Oscar Best Picture frontrunner (see current Oscar predictions here) by Ben Affleck entitled Argo. This is Affleck’s third directorial job after 2007’s Gone Baby Gone and 2010’s The Town, and if it’s any indication, he keeps getting better and is on his way to become one of the greats of his generation.
After the Iranian revolutionaries attacked the US Embassy in 1979, six workers luckily managed to escape the venue and seek refuge to a Canadian ambassador. Back in the US, the government through the help of CIA Tony Mendez (Ben Affleck) planned a device on how to rescue the six employees without the whole world identifying it. The only possible way is to come up with a plan so bad that it will be good. Mendez then contacted Oscar winning make up artist John Chambers (John Goodman) and a veteran has been producer Lester Siegel (Alan Arkin) enters the picture to finalize the plan of doing a fake Hollywood movie entitled “Argo” that will use the six employees as “members” of the film production who visited Iran, and in the process, escaping from Iran.
With a very interesting topic to tackle, director Affleck wasted not a single thing to come up with an extensive and tightly packed direction which is still the movie’s strongest aspect to boot. Seriously, Ben Affleck might not be the best actor in all of Hollywood, and Gigli jokes might never even disappear, but his directorial skills are top notch surpassing each of the previous films that he has done. In Argo, one of my main concerns is that it might get sucked up by the material that it tackles, but Affleck ensured that the the direction will highlight the story and not the other way around.
The screenplay is also strong, though I don’t think there’s a need to include Mendez’ personal struggles, as it is too minor to be included, but I tend to understand where the inclusion is coming from. The flow of the story can tend to go borderline procedural in the middle of the film and sappy in the last part, but the first part and especially the climax were too strong enough to elicit reaction from it viewers, and it succeeds in doing so. The other aspects of the film were strong as well. Costumes and production design were noticeable and cinematography, in particular, was excellent.
The reason why I think this is the frontrunner for the Oscars is that it’s the type of movie that has social relevance (especially with cultural misunderstandings), and shows that a business like Hollywood is not totally detached from the real world. If anything, the industry will eat it up, and I see wins for Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay, and Editing among others.
Ben Affleck has vastly improved with his acting skills, usually letting the eyes and the emotions act for themselves without battling a word, and he was a charismatic and believable enough in the lead role. However, it’s the three supporting actors that stole the show: John Goodman as make up artist John Chambers who was every bit enjoyable and lights up the screen, Bryan Cranston as Edward’s supervisor Jack O’Donnell who was in charge with the dramatic acts especially in the climax part of the film. But it was veteran Alan Arkin who was the scene-stealer as the foul mouthed producer. Arkin’s role is the type that usually gets accolades, and I’m seeing another nomination for him next year.
It is safe to say that Argo is one of the best thrillers of the past few years, and it certainly deserves that distinction. If anything, this is a solid impressive film that benefits from a lot of good characteristics that mix together. That’s enough to be considered as one of the best pictures of the year.