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Martin Movie - ARGO

Martin Movie - ARGO

January 04, 2024

It feels good to write about good movies. While the Academy Awards has a questionable track record of rewarding the BEST film in each year with its top prize, it rarely rewards a bad film. To that end, this year (with the exception of March when I will hold tradition and discuss my top film of the year), I will only write about Best Picture winners. I will write about whether they deserved their prize and what makes them memorable. Starting with a safe choice that most people will agree deserved its prize but would not fight too hard against another choice – Argo (2012, dir. Ben Affleck).

Argo tells the now fairly well-known story of six American workers who escaped the embassy in Iran shortly before it was taken over by Iranian Islamists. They end up seeking refuge in the home of Canadian Ambassador Ken Taylor (Victor Garber). Eventually the CIA decides it needs to extract those six quickly and safely. Agent Tony Mendez (Affleck) is brought in to supervise the extraction, deciding the best plan was to pose as Canadian filmmakers seeking to film a science fiction movie in the desert of Iran. Part of this plan involves setting up a fake production company, stills, press, etc., to lend credence to the idea.

The story takes some significant historical liberties (primarily minimizing the Canadian government’s role in bringing the hostages home), but as a film, it creates one of the most remarkable feats I can remember experiencing. It reaches a level of tension fairly early in the movie and never seems to drag or increase that tension until the climax. Most movies ebb and flow in this area, but Affleck creates a brilliant slow burn of tension that works to never let you truly feel they are safe until the credits roll. The direction is the strength of the film as the performances, while universally good, are nothing extraordinary – working instead to collectively create a well told story moving through a challenging bit of history that most people know at least a little about.

Argo is actually my second rated film from 2012 – falling behind Django Unchained – though even I cannot quibble with its election as the Best Picture winner. It has a wider appeal, and more elements feel Oscar-y than Tarantino’s brilliant blacksploitation Western. Other top films from the year include Silver Linings Playbook, Lincoln, Les Misérables, and Zero Dark Thirty.

If you are looking for a movie that will captivate you for its entirety and likely make you lean in or tense up for minutes on end, Argo is an excellent choice. If you are like me, you will not fully appreciate the brilliance of it until either a few hours later or after a second viewing. It is the best kind of movie – one that stays with you.

FUN FACT – Argo became the first film in 23 years to win Best Picture despite not having even a nomination for Best Director (a criminal omission in my opinion). The last film to achieve this duo was Driving Miss Daisy.

Just Watch says that Argo is currently not streaming anywhere. It is available to rent or buy on most platforms, including AppleTV, YouTube, and Amazon Prime.

As a reminder, here is the original post that details the scores and weighting system.