Argo (Ben Affleck, 2012)
A dramatization of the 1980 joint CIA-Canadian secret operation to extract six fugitive American diplomatic personnel out of revolutionary Iran.
As History goes the common people like you and me are more and more aware of international issues around the world with the democratization of the medias and the spread of Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc. In past years, many revolts in the Middle East have been fueled with the social networks. Sometimes it's for the best. In the case of Argo we are transported in 1979-1980's uprising of Iran with the Ayatollah and the Political refuge of the Shah in the USA. The Shah, being funded by the Americans against the wide spread of Communism of the Soviet Union and in the not so secret issue of keeping the access to petrol, has been declared an enemy of his land. During the uprisings, a group of 44 Americans of the Embassy were kept by the Islamic Republic of Iran. A small group of 6 escaped to the Canadian Embassy and were secretly living there waiting to escape the country.
The story of Argo is set on this Historical fact. They were able to get out while pretending to be a Canadian film crew trying to get shooting locations to film a Star Wars rip off. One of the most important elements in Affleck's film is how his almost unknown cast gets you into the action of the story. Well, you have Mr. Breaking Bad Bryan Cranston, Alan Arkin, John Goodman, then after you have recognizable faces but no other big star like Victor Garber, Tate Donovan, Clea DuVall, Chris Messina and others. It doesn't take you long to get into the story and forget you are actually watching a movie about a secret escape from the worst place on Earth to be American.
An important aspect of Affleck's film is his use of the lesson of Hitchcock in the building of the tension and how every little detail and element can bring suspense and tension to its viewer. This is just as good as Hitch's Notorious and it also reminded me of the greatest thrillers of the 1970's like Alan Pakula's All the President's Men. The plot is builded brick by brick and so is the tension. Every bit of action involves a lot of tension for the six refugees. The scene in the public market is in particular very well executed and we feel that there is something going on while the Army of the Republic slowly unravels elements of the missing six and that they were hiding all this time in the Canadian Embassy. The use and the choice of not using subtitles at moments creates even more suspense to the viewer since five of the six kept were not used to talk the local language. It is also hard ot hide the fact that this is this critic's kind of film: a very well written and executed political thriller that involves a bit of filmmaking was enough to be more than my cup of tea. Highly recommended.
With the mandatory Oscar buzz, in which Argo was nominated for seven Oscars including Best Picture, Editing, Alan Arkin as Supporting Actor, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Sound mixing and editing. To me, the steal here is the fact that Ben Affleck's directing is not even nominated since he won at the Golden Globes and at the BAFTA. This is not a flamboyant directing as Quentin Tarantino's in Django Unchained, that was not nominated either, or as artsy and quirky as Wes Anderson for his Moonrise Kingdom, not nominated either, but at least ten times better than David O. Russell's Silver Linings Playbook and way more inspired than the naturalistic view of Benh Zeitlin in Beasts of the Southern Wild.