Top 15 Films of the Year, No. 15 – Argo

Argo is a film directed by Ben Affleck, with a screenplay written by Chris Terrio.  The movie is based on true events during the Iran Hostage Crisis that were previously unknown to the general public for many decades.  On November 4, 1979, Iranian revolutionaries famously raided the U.S. embassy in Tehran, holding 52 Americans hostage.  During the attack, six Americans snuck out of the embassy and made their way into the home of the Canadian ambassador to Iran.  CIA operative Tony Mendez, knowing the agency must act quickly in order to protect the six Americans from being found out and assassinated by the revolutionaries, develops an ingenious, but hazardous plan to retrieve them and return them to the United States safely.  His plan was to create a fictional movie and act, along with the six Americans, as a film crew visiting Iran to find filming locations before heading back to the states.

After this movie was released, it quickly garnered critical acclaim in every category imaginable.  This praise led to the film winning numerous pre-Oscars film awards, including Best Motion Picture (Drama) and Best Director (Ben Affleck) at the Golden Globes, and being nominated for seven Academy Awards.  Even though I found the movie to be quite interesting and entertaining, in my own opinion it was not as amazing as everyone was making it out to be.

For starters, I was surprised to see this film nominated for Best Picture.  I personally rank this film as the third best out of the three Affleck-directed movies in his filmography.  Gone Baby Gone (2007) and The Town (2010) were both much more complicated, enthralling films and yet neither was nominated for Best Picture.  The general consensus is also that Ben Affleck was robbed this year by the Academy for not being nominated for Best Director.  After hearing all of the universal acclaim his directorial efforts were receiving, I felt bad for him, too, but then I saw the film.  And after sitting in the theater for two hours watching this movie, I left completely and utterly un-blown away.  Do not get me wrong, it was a great movie, which is why it is featured on this countdown of the year’s best films, but it did not do enough for me to show Affleck’s growth as a director.

Also, the film features some great acting performances that carry this story through until the end.  The obvious bright stars were Ben Affleck himself, portraying the real-life Tony Mendez, and Alan Arkin, playing Lester Siegel, a fictitious film producer.  Even though these performances were definitely worth watching, the most impressive performance, in my opinion, was by Bryan Cranston (from Breaking Bad).  He depicts Jack O’Donnell, Affleck’s character’s supervisor at the CIA.  Throughout the nerve-racking covert operation, Cranston illustrates the overwhelming tension involved with the mission, and he does so in a way that makes you feel his real-life anxiety pulsing through your own veins.  Argo is rated R for language and some violent images.

Academy Award nominations for Argo:

Best Picture (Grant Heslov, Ben Affleck, and George Clooney, Producers)

Actor in a Supporting Role (Alan Arkin)

Film Editing (William Goldenberg)

Original Score (Alexandre Desplat)

Sound Editing (Erik Aadahl and Ethan Van der Ryn)

Sound Mixing (John Reitz, Gregg Rudloff, and Jose Antonio Garcia)

Best Adapted Screenplay (Chris Terrio)