Dave the Pirate says “Arr, go see this movie!”
I promise that joke will seem funnier once you see this film. I actually saw it a few days ago but due to life, work, and Warhammer haven’t had a chance to write this up. This has given me a chance to really think about this film, trying desperately to find a fault I can bitch about. There is no way I want a movie to escape my evil grasp without some scar to remember me by. I swear I could find an issue with the greatest movie of all time (Fight Club, in my opinion, although most credible reviewers seem to want to list films like the Shawshank Redemption or the Godfather) if I really put my mind to it.
However, I think I am going to be disappointed. This movie is nigh flawless, and in spite of the fact that there are no gun battles, fist fights, car chases, or monsters I was glued to my seat experiencing a buildup of tension and pressure that was highly reminiscent of my dating life, except that the movie manages to find release. This movie managed to make me care about each of the characters, even the bit ones who only had a line or two, and I was honestly gripping my seat in fear for them in a way no good or bad horror movie has ever accomplished.
Of course, if you are one of the grunting unwashed masses who can’t go two minutes without seeing something explode or Jason Stratham breaking someone’s arm than this movie is probably not for you. For you, sir, I would recommend Taken 2 followed by a bout of breaking beer bottles on your forehead in the parking lot of your local WalMart. For the rest of us (and hey, I’m not saying I haven’t broken beer bottles on my forehead. I’m just saying not all movies need to be done by Michael Bey) this movie is a great, well written story with excellent acting, direction, and pacing.
I vaguely remember the events of the Iranian Hostage Crisis. At the time I was more concerned with staying out of my father’s line of sight and the fact that I was getting my ass kicked at school at least once a week, so world events were not a really a concern for me. I remember thinking Carter was kind of a wimp for not just sending in the army and kicking the crap out of them all, but in retrospect I understand how that might have been a bad move. The fact that this story is based on a true story adds a lot to the perceived value of the film in my opinion.
Anyway, the story is of six members of the US Embassy in Iran (Tate Donovan, Scoot McNairy, Rory Cochrane, Kerry Bishe, Christoper Denham, Clea DuVall) who managed to sneak out the back when the revolutionary students stormed the building. They hide out at the Canadian Ambassador’s house (Victor Garber-Sleepless in Seattle, Titanic, Milk) and spend a couple months sponging off him and his wife. Meanwhile, back in the USA CIA director Jack O’Donnell (Bryan Cranston-Total Recall, Breaking Bad, Red Tails) taps extraction expert Tony Mendez (Ben Affleck-Gigli, Saving Private Ryan, Good Will Hunting) to help construct a plan to get them out of the country. The guys in charge are coming up with all kinds of bad ideas, and Tony calls them on it.
Eventually he comes up with the idea of creating a fake science fiction movie called Argo and an even faker Canadian film company to shoot it in Iran. In order to give legitimacy to their back story he contacts Hollywood make up man John Chambers (John Goodman-Monsters, Inc, the Artist, the Big Lebowski. World of Pain poster courtesy of the Movie T Shirt category) to help him. They recruit director Lester Siegal (Alan Arkin-Little Miss Sunshine, Grosse Point Blank, Edward Scissorhands) and together they create a fake movie buzz in true Hollywood fashion. Tony flies to Iran to scout locations, where he has to train the six to get them out of the country.
I don’t want to get too much more into it. Pretty much everything I just told you I picked up by watching the trailers, so no spoilers there.
The stars. Honestly, this might be a waste of time as I don’t think I will have any black holes, but it might be fun to list the parts I particularly enjoyed. Excellent story. Two stars. Excellent acting by literally everyone. There wasn’t a bad seed to be found. Two stars. Pacing and editing were brilliant, mixing the many sub plots (the fake production company, the suits at CIA headquarters managing things, the plight of the Americans as well as the hostages, and the Iranian investigation trying to track down the missing Americans) in a way that each piece reinforced the overall story rather than distracted from it. Two stars. Normally I give movies set in the 70’s and 80’s black holes for being true to the era (I have issues with American culture and fashion during my childhood. Also bad porn mustaches) but here it was well done. They also managed to give the film a very 80’s feel, which kept it from looking too polished and further set you in the time period. One star. The characters all made it incredibly easy to connect to, thus increasing the tension and concern as the movie progressed. One star. The tension and worry were palpable. One star. Direction and camera work were very well done. One star. In a movie with no action to speak of I was completely engrossed. Two stars. Total: twelve stars.
Black holes? Not really. If I had enjoyed the film less I could have dug something up, but that would just be petty. A big donut here.
Twelve stars and no black holes? I must be losing my mind. Normally September and October are the movie equivalent of crossing a huge open field comprised entirely of ruptured septic tanks (mainly because all the movies that suck to much to compete with the summer and holiday block busters slink here to hide like worms and bugs under a rock) but the last couple months has been a truly great movie experience. Should you see this? Duh. That’s like asking if you should keep on processing oxygen. Date movie? Yes, not because this film will really turn her on (no romance or shirtless young wolf men) but because everyone should see this film and she might appreciate your taste and intellect on this one. Plus if the date goes nowhere and you never see her again at least you have seen a great movie. Bathroom break? Honestly, this is one you are going to want to hold it. It’s a long 120 minutes but feels like 90. However, if you super sized your drink and really have to keep from embarrassing yourself I would say the scene where all the Americans have to go to the Grand Bazaar. It is a great scene but I think you could miss most of it without losing track of what is going on. But trust me, just get a small drink.
Thanks for reading. Things have gotten really weird lately in that I seem to be liking more movies than I hate. I hope watching all the horrible movies hasn’t desensitized me or shifted my tastes. Of course, we are on final approach to the Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2 so maybe I can tell myself I am building a bile reserve to unleash like a fire hose on that train wreck. Incidentally, Silent Hill Revelation is coming out this weekend and I can honestly say that playing the video game did horrible things to my head. I am not looking forward to seeing this. Fortunately my friends are queuing up to see it with me. I suspect they hope to see me do something embarrassing that requires a change of clothing. I plan to disappoint them.
Thanks for reading. My reader numbers are growing, and I appreciate every one of you that got to this point in my review. Follow me on Twitter (act now to be follower #169!) @Nerdkungfu. Any comments on this movie or review feel free to post here. Any off topic questions or suggestion feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Talk to you soon.