Entertainment Entertainment Movies

'Argo' review: Deserves Oscar nominations, not wins

*** (out of four)

It’s not easy to make a reality-based, political, action-comedy that stretches from Tinseltown to Tehran and covers everything from Hollywood satire to public hangings.

In his first directorial effort not set in Boston, Ben Affleck (“Gone Baby Gone,” “The Town”) delivers a compelling movie, if not a perfect one. “Argo” leaves you wanting to know more, rather than feeling fully informed about an event that President Clinton declassified 15 years ago. Before your eyes glaze over at the phrase “Iran hostage crisis,” know that Affleck and writer Chris Terrio, working from an article by Joshuah Bearman, effectively loop in the historically uninformed to understand the movie’s setting without overdoing the info dump.

In late 1979, CIA agent Tony Mendez (Affleck) leads a rescue mission in Tehran when six Americans escape the U.S. embassy before rioters bust in as part of a protest to bring the ailing former leader Shah Reza Pahlavi back from exile in the U.S. to be tried and hanged.

No one would call Tony’s plan conventional. With help from Hollywood insiders (John Goodman, Alan Arkin) and his boss (Bryan Cranston), Tony will coach the Americans, now hiding in the Canadian ambassador’s house, to pose as a film crew scouting Middle Eastern locations for a movie called “Argo.” The sci-fi movie’s script exists, but no one has any intention of actually making the movie, which says something—of one film he’s working on, makeup artist John Chambers (Goodman) notes that the target audience will hate it. The target audience being, he says, “people with eyes.”

Affleck’s previous directorial efforts overflowed with emotional involvement, but “Argo” ping-pongs between funny and dramatic without allowing us to know its main characters especially well. The internal discussions that result in decisions and changes of plan within the CIA and state department fail to clarify many questions. Instead we get repeated comments about the operation’s small chances for success and arguments with lines like, “I want you to do your [bleeping] job!”

The action in “Argo” may not crackle like that of “The Town,” but this is a historical event and not an action movie, even if at times Affleck labors to turn “Argo” into one. He delivers a quick, entertaining two hours, offering unembellished heroism and loads of tension while our country works to protect its own without compromise or violence.

Watch Matt on “You & Me This Morning,” Friday at 6:55 a.m. on WCIU, the U

mpais@tribune.com

 

Want more? Discuss this article and others on RedEye's Facebook page.

 

Copyright © 2015, RedEye
Related Content
  • Donald Trump says cops should be tougher on Chicago crime

    Donald Trump says cops should be tougher on Chicago crime

    Businessman Donald Trump brought his nascent bid for the Republican presidential nomination to town Monday, warning that crime in Chicago is "out of control" and hurting the city's image worldwide.

  • South Carolina church shooting shines spotlight on media treatment of white, black suspects

    South Carolina church shooting shines spotlight on media treatment of white, black suspects

    I have been to the Grammy Awards. I have had features written about my music in Billboard, XXL, Jet and other magazines I've always loved. Oprah Winfrey told me to my face that she loves my dreads and purple eyebrows. My music is played on TV shows and movies, and I write about my opinionated views...

  • 'Magic Mike XXL' is the summer's best sequel so far

    'Magic Mike XXL' is the summer's best sequel so far

    2012’s “Magic Mike” and its sequel, “Magic Mike XXL,” could have been so stupid, and I’m sure those who haven’t seen either one assume that they are. I mean, think of how cheesy a movie about male strippers could be. Based on the commercials, they barely seem like movies at all—just two-hour thrust-athons...

  • Vince Staples' sprawling double album 'Summertime '06' is relentlessly gritty

    Vince Staples' sprawling double album 'Summertime '06' is relentlessly gritty

    Vince Staples deals in pessimism, for good reason. The Long Beach rapper has seen a lot of violence and despair in his 21 years. He'll tell you about it too, in unflinching clarity that few artists his age possess. There’s little if any hope in his music. Yet even with the darkness oozing out of...

  • RedEye's favorite songs of 2015 (so far)

    RedEye's favorite songs of 2015 (so far)

    As we reach 2015's midpoint, it's clear that the year in music has been incredible, with a little bit of everything, from classic soul, rap, emo, '70s funk, grunge and scorching Southern rock to searing punk, bubblegum pop and jazz fusion. In particular, Kendrick Lamar's rap-funk masterpiece "To...

  • RedEye's 25 favorite albums of 2015 (so far)

    RedEye's 25 favorite albums of 2015 (so far)

    As we reach 2015's midpoint, it's clear that the year in music has been incredible, with a little bit of everything from classic soul, rap, emo, '70s funk, grunge and scorching Southern rock to searing punk, bubblegum pop and jazz fusion. In particular, Kendrick Lamar's rap-funk masterpiece "To...

Comments
Loading