Argo (2012)

Reid

Argo (2012)
Dir. Ben Affleck
56/100

I’m a little surprised that Mitchell liked this as much as he did. I guess Penny would like this at least a little. I’m really not sure about everyone else. I suspect everyone else (except for Larri) would think this was OK at the least. Some might like this a lot more, and I guess Chris, Kevin and Don have the best chance of this, but that’s basically a wild guess.

**
This is based on the true story of the way a CIA operative got six American diplomats out of Iran during the hostage crisis. If you haven’t seen the trailer and you’re interested in seeing this, I would recommend not seeing the trailer or learning too much more. Personally, I think the trailer contains everything of interest; the details the film fills out doesn’t really add much to the film. I feel that partly because these details seemed predictable to me. I also didn’t think the characters or performances were very interesting.

One more thing. To me, this is the type of movie that would have been better as a documentary or even a segment of a documentary. I’d guess many of you would disagree with this, but there you go.

***
One reviewer talked about the way there were two movies–one, an espionage film and the other, a satire about Hollywood. That may be true, but, as an espionage film, it’s not so interesting largely because it’s predictable in my opinion. That might have been OK if the film didn’t take liberties to add excitement for viewers. I learned after seeing the film that the climatic ending didn’t happen, but I guessed that this was probably the case.

As for the satire, the target is too easy, and there are a lot of films that have satirized Hollywood. I must say that I really like Alan Arkin, and I was really wanting to like him. Maybe my expectations were too high, but I found him a little disappointing.

The direction was OK, nothing exceptional. I did think the film should have ended when Arkin’s character says, “Argo, f**k it,” or something to that effect. I thought the scenes after that were unnecessary.

Mitchell

Man, that’s kind of surprising. I thought the film looked great, and I was literally on the edge of my seat in parts of the film, barely able to sit still. I like Alan Arkin too, but lately he’s been suuuuuuuper irritating (I couldn’t stand him in Little Miss Sunshine or in Sunshine Cleaning). However, I thought he was pretty dang good in this, especially the way he and John Goodman played off each other.

I also didn’t expect the flood of memories that came over me as I watched the first third of the film, the part that showed the embassy takeover, Ted Koppel’s late-night updates, the yellow ribbons, and President Carter. Even seeing that date in print (January 20, 1981) was a trigger for me, because I remember that date exactly: it was President Reagan’s inauguration. I even know the date they touched back down on American soil (January 24) because the Raiders beat the Eagles in the Super Bowl that day. For 444 days, it was the singlemost important story on the news, a blanket that seemed to cover every conversation about current events.

I think the film is a big deal.

I’ll write my review later.

6 Responses to “Argo (2012)”


  1. Reid

    I thought the film looked great,…

    Well, I hope you touch upon this in your review. I can be clueless to the formal qualities of a film, so maybe I’m missing something. From the use of the old Warner Brother’s logo at the beginning, I thought that Affleck would really be detailed in terms of creating a 70s feeling, but I think the film (the art design) sort of a mixed bag. Some moments looked like the 70s and other moments looked more artificial or contemporary. (Because of that opening, I think I was paying closer attention to this.)

    …and I was literally on the edge of my seat in parts of the film, barely able to sit still.

    I guess I just knew that they would be OK. Also, the parts that the filmmakers added to create suspense seemed obvious to me. For example, when Washington calls off the operation, you knew that Tony (Affleck) wouldn’t abandon the people. And I felt this was the added part. (I have no idea if it is true or not, but it really feels like a contrivance.) I just knew that the filmmakers would find ways to make the film suspenseful–and the ways they did this were both predictable and not very satisfying in terms of the way the good guys get out of situations. For example, remember when the Revolutionary Guard calls the fake studio? The film shows someone preventing Arkin and Goodman’s character from getting to their office. How do they get to the phone in time? Arkin’s character says, “Well, too bad, we’re going to be in the movie.” Then they make it in time and answer the phone. Aren’t these lazy solutions? If these things actually happened, well, OK, but they didn’t.

    I also didn’t expect the flood of memories that came over me as I watched the first third of the film,…

    I think this explains our different reactions. The film didn’t evoke memories or feeling of nostalgia for me at all.

    I think the film is a big deal.

    OK, I’m intrigued. I look forward to what you have to say about this.

  2. Mitchell

    I’m curious about how you decide whether or not people you know will like a film. This movie has been pretty much universally praised (forty positive reviews on Metacritic and four mixed reviews). The mass of critics can certainly be wrong, but if that many of them like a movie, why do you think your friends will disagree with them?

    My question is not so much about considering what critics think when guessing what your friends will think of a movie, but what you seem to see in a movie that almost everyone else doesn’t, and why you think most of your friends will feel the same way.

  3. Reid

    I base my decision on what I know of my friends’ tastes, and I generally don’t think at all about the critical reaction to a film. (One exception that comes to mind is my recommendation of Avatar to you–particularly the fact that critics praised the use of 3D and the visuals overall. But I probably referenced this because I know you take stock in the opinions of critics–and in this case, I think Ebert was one of the critics praising the visuals.)

    The mass of critics can certainly be wrong, but if that many of them like a movie, why do you think your friends will disagree with them?

    The correlation between the consensus of critics and what my friends (or me) would like isn’t very strong. Consider Aquirre, Wrath of God. Many critics love that film. How many of our friends do you think would enjoy that? If you said that not many of our friends would like that film, does this mean you see something in these films that other critics don’t? Aren’t you basically comparing the film to your understanding of what your friends would like?

    Now, if I said that I think a film is terrible, when all the critics said it was great, I think that’s a different question. Is that what you’re asking me?

  4. Mitchell

    SOME LITTLE SPOILERS

    Because this was a covert operation, my guess is that there is no real footage of actual events. Just paperwork, which isn’t very film-friendly. So a documentary approach would have to involve just interviews and possibly reenactments. This approach can definitely work, but since the movie was made without the endorsement or cooperation of the CIA (according to a note in the credits), I wonder how available current and former agents would be for the kinds of interviews that would make a compelling film.

    I haven’t seen a ton of films like this, but can you think of others that capture the vibe of those chanting throngs in Middle Eastern countries that gather outside government buildings? The tension and anger were almost palpable to me, something I’ve never experienced from just looking at it on the news. Then, to be able to experience it from inside the U.S. embassy was really cool. People are coming INTO THE BUILDING while foreign service personnel are discussing what to do, while still others are hastily trying to destroy anything that could be harmful when it falls into the wrong hands.

    Those parts were tense and scary, no matter how predictable the outcome. I was trying to remember if any Americans were killed in the takeover; I knew none had been killed once the hostages had been taken, but were we going to see Americans killed in the initial struggle?

    And what about that scene when hostages were taken into the basement with sacks tied over their heads? Or that unexpected (unless you predicted this too) scene where the filmmakers had to go into the square to meet with Iranian officials? I get kind of (kind of; not clinically) claustrophobic in just carnival or stadium crowds; imagining what it must be like to feel pressed in on all sides by people who might kill you if they knew who you were was stressful. For me, anyway.

    Predictability can be a movie-killer if the predictability works toward telling you the same story you’ve heard multiple times before. This was a new story. I haven’t seen as many movies as you’ve seen, but I can’t think of another film where a covert government operation sends one man in to get six civilians out of a hostile country, some of whom aren’t sure they want to come with you. Unlike films that show similar, military operations, where you know that there’s a nobody-gets-left-behind mentality, in this one you know that if the cover is blown, everyone in there is going to be on his or her own. I found it dramatic in a very believable way.

  5. Reid

    …I wonder how available current and former agents would be for the kinds of interviews that would make a compelling film.

    For what it’s worth, I believe you can find Tony Mendez’s comments about the film and the operation online.

    I haven’t seen a ton of films like this, but can you think of others that capture the vibe of those chanting throngs in Middle Eastern countries that gather outside government buildings?

    Is the film’s depiction of the chanting in Arabic, the angry mob or both that you’re responding to? I don’t know if I’ve seen films with mobs chanting in Arabic, but I’m pretty sure I’ve seen an angry mob in movies. Basically, you’re saying that the film did a great job of recreating this angry mob and the feeling of being trapped inside a building, right? I didn’t really get the sense that the film did this in an exceptional way–in the sense that the anger of the mob and the fear of being trapped in the building were palpable–not more than other films, anyway. I’m not saying this to dismiss your reaction or criticize the film–I’m just describing my reaction.

    Maybe I’ve seen more films like this, or maybe I don’t react as strongly as you do to this type of scenes in film. (I have been in a real life situation with a potential angry mob and that was scary.) I have no idea.

    …imagining what it must be like to feel pressed in on all sides by people who might kill you if they knew who you were was stressful.

    There was some tension, but I didn’t think the film did this better than other films. By the way, I thought you don’t like films that evoke this kind stress.

    I found it dramatic in a very believable way.

    But what about my examples of cheap ways the film built tension and release? Here’s an another example: Tony calls his boss and tells him he’s going ahead with the operation. The boss has to scramble to get the tickets reserved and get them reserved at the last second. Is this believable? Would this work if this were a fictional film? (There’s a lot of these improbable near misses in the film and improbable escapes.)

  6. Reid

    By the way, as I mentioned in my review, I’m not really sure how people will react to this film. If I had to guess most people would think this is OK at least, and maybe like it more than that. It’s really hard for me to say, though.

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