Argo – Capsule Review

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With its other awards this year, I knew Argo was likely to win the Best Picture Oscar. The distribution company probably felt the same way so they released it on disc (and iTunes) with enough time for us all to see it before the Oscars ceremony. I think I skipped seeing this movie in the theatres despite the stellar reviews mainly because I’m not the biggest fan of “based on actual events” movies. It’s no surprise to anyone who reads my blog that I’m more into escapist stuff. Anyway, people recommended this movie for its non-stop thrilling pace and I’m up for a good suspense movie (even if it does feature Ben Affleck with shaggy 70s facial hair). The story of how an American CIA operative went into Iran during the famous hostage crisis to extract half a dozen embassy workers who were hiding out in the Canadian ambassador’s residence did not immediately sell me. The cover story of a production crew for a cheesy sci-fi film added a bit of intrigue, but even so it was kind of slow going for me. (I did not watch the movie all in one sitting.) The first portion of the movie (after the action of establishing the hostage crisis) was for Affleck’s character to get authorization to go ahead with the plan (that piece actually adds to the tension later on), then make arrangements in Hollywood to ensure that the cover story seems legit. That’s not the kind of thing I normally expect in a movie about international intrigue. The last 45 minutes are when the suspense really starts as the group has to make it through the city and out the airport. The climax is actually too close for comfort — a bit unbelievable actually, but at least it was nail-biting. What perhaps makes it more deserving of the Oscar than what I seem to be suggesting is that Affleck and the cast did a very good job with the characters. We don’t have too much time to get to know them, but there’s a good sense of their emotional states and what they’re enduring. There are even character arcs for some of them. What typically makes a good Best Picture candidate is one that has it all: characters, suspense, emotional stakes, and a good pace. (4 out of 5)

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