Movies: Argo

Starring: Ben Affleck, Bryan Cranston, Alan Arkin, John Goodman
Directed By: Ben Affleck
Written By: Chris Terrio (screenplay), Joshuah Bearman (article)
GK Films, 2012
R; 120 min
5 stars (out of 5)


I think it's funny—in the sense of interesting rather than amusing—how in grade school, in the years we took American history (which wasn't every year—sometimes it was world history, sometimes state history), we always started and ended in the same place. One supposes this is because the school year was only so long, but I always thought maybe they should plan it so that you did up to one point in one grade, then followed in the next grade with only a little review before going the rest of the way. Or maybe it's just that all the textbooks were old, and it being too expensive to print more current ones, we simply never made it past the election of Jimmy Carter.

And we didn't. We'd get as far as Kennedy being assassinated, Nixon resigning after Watergate, and Carter being elected and history would then stop. And even then, that last bit was rushed. By the time we finished World War II, the teachers were scrambling to cram in as much as they could before summer break. So everything after D-Day is really something of a blur. (And yet, in Texas history we had entire chapters on the different varieties of cattle . . .)

What does all of this have to do with Argo? Well, I just want to say it was pretty brilliant of them to encapsulate the history in the opening so those of us with less education on the matter (and no memory, thanks to our ages) could understand what was going on.

But more than a history lesson, Argo is an extremely well-made movie. It is intense and absorbing, amazingly well written and well edited to heighten the tension. I can't remember the last time a movie really made me clutch my seat with anticipation. So kudos here to Affleck and company on that score.

I do realize, of course, that liberties were taken with some of the history, but that's fine. I still walked away more educated about a point in my country's history than when I walked in. I also walked out satisfied at having been entertained. Win-win!

For anyone scratching their heads because they don't know what Argo is about, here's a thumbnail sketch of the story: Affleck plays a CIA agent sent to get six embassy workers out of Iran by prepping them to pose as a film crew on a location scouting trip. I won't say more than that because to explain it too much would (a) ruin it for anyone who wants to see it, and (b) require more typing than I feel like doing at the moment.

Certainly I think Argo will get some Oscar attention. I'd love to see Alan Arkin get a nod for supporting actor, though I feel that might be a long shot. I think picture and director are safe bets though. Possibly screenplay as well. And I think there's a fair chance Argo may even walk away with a few statues despite what promises to be a crowded field this year. It's that good. And that deserving.

No comments: