Thursday, July 11, 2013

2012: Argo

During the U.S. hostage crisis in Iran, six Americans escape and hide out with the Canadian ambassador.  In order to get them safely home before they are discovered and executed, Tony Mendez of the C.I.A. invents a fake movie so they can pretend to be a Canadian film crew looking for a desert location.

I've heard this movie get a lot of hate.  People complain that it's historically inaccurate and that it's a horrible insult to all the brilliant films made in 2012 that this was named Best Picture, but while I will agree that there were a lot of good films in 2012, I actually really liked Argo and was glad it won.  After all, this isn't an award for the most historically accurate movie of the year.  Part of the point of this film is that Hollywood is fake, so maybe it was inaccurate on purpose to prove its point.  I don't know and I don't care, and I know people have valid reasons for disagreeing with me, but I'm going to talk briefly about why I think Argo deserved this award.

First of all, historically accurate or not, it's a fascinating story.  It sounds completely ridiculous to use a fake movie to save people's lives, but sometimes ridiculous ideas actually work.  Though I would have liked more character development of the six people being rescued, I think keeping the audience from getting to know them too well was the filmmakers' way of showing us Tony's perspective.  He's risking everything to pull off a plan he knows will almost certainly fail to save people he doesn't even know.  Yes, that's his job, but that doesn't make it any less heroic.  So I was surprised to find myself so invested in whether they were rescued, since I'm usually more interested in characters that I feel I've gotten to know.  I'm still not exactly sure how this film managed to pull this off, but for whatever reason I found myself just as invested in the fates of these six people whose names I could barely remember as I'd ever been in the fate of a movie character, which is a lot more than it probably should be.

As a result, this is just about the most stressful movie I've ever watched.  Even though I knew they were going to get out alive, the whole time I couldn't help thinking that there was no possible way that they could.  I think the filmmakers did an excellent job of building tension, and the first time I saw it I could hardly breathe during the second half and was literally clutching my sister's hand for most of the airport scene.  That, to me, is evidence of good filmmaking.  Thankfully, there is a significant amount of comedic relief, particularly in the form of John Goodman and Alan Arkin, but even that is laden with tension.  It seems like they're only making jokes so that they don't have to think about the potential consequences of failure, which almost makes the whole experience even more stressful.  Just to be clear, I think this is a good thing.  I think a movie's job is to transport its audience into the story, and with a story like this it needs to be stressful.  So while I definitely wouldn't be able to watch this every day, I think it's a well done film.  You can disagree with me, that's your prerogative, but if you've been warned that Argo isn't worth watching, let me urge you to give it a chance.  You might be pleasantly surprised as I was.


  1. One of my faves. Predictable and unpredictable all at the same time. Not corny. Loved it.