Argo: A Well-Paced Thriller

I worry about movies where they show maps at the beginning. Maps with excessive voiceover usually make me cringe. It seems so amateurish.

But, I suppose, in the case of Argo, when one is trying to explain the complexities of Iran, one had better insert some briefing materials at the beginning for those Americans who don’t know what the heck is going on over there.

Or, what was going on in 1979 over there, which is when our story takes place.

First-time screenwriter Chris Terrio does OK, considering this is his first feature script. There are a lot of characters and situations to throw around, and for the most part, they are handled with ease.

Ben Affleck’s direction is another issue. This, his third movie, is the tensest of them all, with a juicy story. However, his propensity to have a closeup of himself just about every other shot really started to irk me after a while. Sorry, Ben, but this story isn’t about the guy who got them out. It’s about the hostages. (Or it SHOULD be.) They are the news here.

But if you can put all that aside, you have a story that up until President Clinton declassified it several years ago, no one really knew about.

The movie is exceedingly well cast. Lots of great actors, from Kyle Chandler as Hamilton Jordan to Bob Gunton as Cyrus Vance. Adam Arkin and John Goodman cover the Hollywood piece. Victor Garber is the Canadian ambassador. Tate Donovan and Clea DuVall are two of the hostages. Zeljko Ivanec and Titus Welliver play key roles.

But best of all, Bryan Cranston (really hard to not see him as Walter White anymore) is wonderful as the CIA guy. And Ben Affleck (in his “Hollywood won’t cast me, so I’ll cast me” role) is pretty good, save for all the closeups. There is a whole unnessary montage of Ben, alone with a whiskey bottle, which is overly long and somewhat extraneous.

So, a lot of people are lauding Argo, and it is a fun ride, but I have a lot of reservations about it being pushed into Best Picture territory.

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