Thursday, November 29, 2012

Film Review: Ben Affleck's Argo

From the opening 1970's era Warner Brothers logo, complete with age-appropriate scratches, to the quite tense, but awfully contrived climactic finish (from what I have read on the subject, the real story is far less exciting, so one supposes a bit of dramatic license is allowed, even preferred here), Ben Affleck's Argo shows itself as something out of time, perhaps even out of rhythm with what we perceive as a modern day action film.  This is not meant as a bust on the film at all (well, maybe that contrived jab) but rather giving it its due as something that plays out, not as some flashy, CGI-addled actioner of this ADD-diagnosed post-millennial period - something that replaces story with spectacle - but as something from a better time.  A better time in both cinema and society alike.  A time when the director, not the producer, was king - god even in some cases.

Argo is reminiscent of a director-driven time when the art that went up on the screen was more important than the dollars that went in the pocket.  Well, okay, the dollars have always been important, even from the beginnings of what we call cinema, but you know what I mean.  It was a time of artistic sensibilities that ran through cinema from the collapse of the old studio system and its tired production code in the early to mid sixties through the waning days of the director-god and the birth of the franchise film full of all its critic-proofing marketing, when the studios knew it took little effort to make a blockbuster, in the early eighties.  Much the same way as Tomas Alfredson did last year with the similarly set Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Affleck brings that feeling back in spades with Argo.  This is not only a film set in the latter days of this period (1979-80 to be precise) but it plays out as if were really made in that time as well.

As for the film itself, the acting is top notch - Affleck, a rather underrated actor as it is, gives one of his best performances - and the tension is, as they say, palpable.  Granted, the screenplay often gets a bit hokey, and as I mentioned earlier, the ending is quite contrived, but the way Affleck lets things play out, it seems to work, even over the hokier moments.  Affleck's directorial debut, the sadly overlooked Gone Baby Gone, really had no major problems to speak of.  In fact it was one of the best first films of its generation.  The actor/director seemed to have the same problems as he does in Argo, with his second film as a director, The Town.  There were moments in that film that shot shivers across the back of cinema, but there was an overabundant share of contrivance there as well - especially in the pandering finale that almost made this critic forget all the good things that abounded in the film.  Now the problems here are mere minor scratches compared to the ending of The Town, and as I said, a bit of dramatic license never hurt anyone.  The runway chase scene may have been a bit much, but otherwise this is a finely tuned machine that makes one long for the pre-franchise days of cinematic yore that were the seventies.  We at least get a taste of that here - and kudos should go to Mr. Affleck for making that so.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

thanks for share..