Friday, 8 February 2013

Movies Save Lives

A film about the American secret services normally rings bells of high speed car chases, an attractive male roughly shooting his way to the bad guy, and several high budget explosions. Not today's film. Today we look at a film that looks behind the scenes of one of the CIA's most adventurous rescue missions, which mostly involves people sitting behind desks. And yet, it has incredible reviews across the boards. How? Let's check it out. This is Argo.

The year is 1979. The American Embassy in Iran is overrun by Iranian revolutionaries and several hostages are taken. However six Americans manage to escape and find refuge in the Canadian Ambassador's house, complete with handy trap doors to hide beneath. Back in the CIA offices in America, there is demand to work out a way to get these six out of Iran safely, but all plots seem a bit difficult or flawed. However, Tony Mendez (Ben Affleck), with the help of Jack O'Donnell (Bryan Cranston), put together a scheme that seems completely ridiculous but just might work: put together a fake film and get the six trapped men and women to pose as a Canadian production team on a location scout. Wrangling together John Chambers (John Goodman) and Lester Siegel (Alan Arkin) to be his producers and men in the office, he sets out to begin creating Argo - the film that never will be. But complications begin to arise over time limits, believability  and the White House doubting how strong the plan really is. A true story to make you bite your nails to the bone.

The two of them need to sort out this meth... I mean, mess.

An excellently cast film. Ben Affleck, as well as directing the film, holds the action together with a solid, dedicated performance. The calm CIA persona is constantly juxtaposed with the nerves of a real man; a man whose career, life, and six others' lives depend on his plan going right. Affleck really shows that stress in his acting, sometimes explicitly, other times it is all in his eyes. Bryan Cranston, as always, is fantastic. O'Donnell is the man who aims to play it by the book, and in Cranston's performance, we see the pain that that causes; the stress of balancing doing things right or doing things the way he is meant to. A constant internal conflict. Goodman and Arkin are delightful additions to the cast and provide a lot of the comic relief - or lighter areas of the film. They are captivating to watch, causing not only laughter, but also creating some of the most suspenseful moments of the film. A really solid ensemble that work fantastically together to build up suspense and make an atmosphere that remains tense the entire run time.

A pat on the head for your good ideas, Tony.

At two hours long, Argo is the second shortest of the nominated films. And what a solid two hours. Affleck is just as powerful behind the camera as he is in front of it. He takes Tony Mendez's story and transforms it into a real nail biter. How Affleck manages to create such tension from a lot of people talking and only a small bit of action is beyond me. The classiest race against the clock that cinema has offered in a long time. With a wonderfully atmospheric score and camera work that truly captures the intensity of situation on screen, Argo makes what could be a slow paced 'important men talking around a table' film into a constantly dramatic and engaging thriller that rockets forward with strength and power. Pushing the audience to the edge of their seat, especially in the second half.

A brilliant, brilliant example of how to create a dramatic thriller based around the secret services without needing lots of high action sequences. Timing, dialogue, and solid performing create a heart pounding and adrenaline raising piece of cinema which is dripping with constant excitement. A fantastic film.

Best Bit? The ending. Powerfully tense and but loaded with spoiler. Watch the film. 

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