Monday, October 15, 2012

Cinema Siren stumbled off a plane from Paris and stumbled into a darkened movie theater this weekend to see actor/director Ben Affleck’s great new fall release, “Argo.”

This highly entertaining movie was made all the more fun by being in a sold-out theater with a crowd entirely made up of people over 30 at 1:50 in the afternoon. When was the last time any of you have seen that? Our thanks go to Ben Affleck, who has turned into quite a force in Hollywood, offering a smartly entertaining movie that is both fast-paced and extremely exciting.

You’d think anyone in Hollywood who got the phone call with the storyline of this movie would jump on it. The elevator pitch is amazing: A CIA operative convinces his higher-ups to support his outlandish idea of posing six American embassy workers (trapped in the Canadian ambassador’s house after the 1979 coup in Iran) as members of a film crew scouting locations for a sc-ifi movie. (Parts of the movie were filmed in McLean.)

The sell’s big finish? It’s a true story.

I’m honestly not sure how easy it was for Affleck to get “Argo” made, but after only two other highly rated and well-received movies — “Gone Baby Gone” and “The Town” — his directing track record is catapulting him to the top of the Hollywood food chain. This is no small feat for a man who was once mocked in tabloids worldwide as a washed-up actor. This reviewer is one person who thrills to see him rise above it all and thrive. I knew he had it in him, and hope he’s laughing all the way to the bank.

Some of the best movies of the year have not been potential classics planted firmly in their respective genres, but rather creative genre-busting inventions whose risky mash-ups somehow work. “The Cabin in the Woods” and “Looper” are two movies this year that have succeeded by mixing it up, and “Argo” can be added to that list.

It has elements of an action movie, a spy thriller, a tense drama, with bits of tongue-in-cheek humor thrown in, all pulled together into a tightly woven story that keeps you fascinated about the outcome, and rooting for everyone involved.
The thought that the premise behind “Argo” is part of world history is amazing, and we all watch it unfold knowing somebody — Tony Mendez, played in the film by Affleck — actually came up with this all to save six people’s lives.

It’s a great thing as we age, being reminded that with a good idea anything is possible. Perhaps that, along with the fact that “Argo” is really a thinking man’s action flick, explains why the audience demographic was mostly people who were alive when this “true story” happened in the first place. The ensemble cast offers a great list of character actors we can always count on to put in quality performances, and they do that again here.

It includes Clea DuVall and Tate Donovan as two of the six being rescued, John Goodman, Alan Arkin, Chris Messina and Bryan Cranston as part of the team that devise the plan, and of course Affleck as real-life spook Mendez, who by the way is quoted by Jimmy Carter as being one of the top 50 most important operatives in history.

The screenplay by Chris Terrio is also so well-constructed and moves along so rapidly, you don’t notice the two-hour running time. It is always the director, though, who ultimately is responsible for bringing all these elements together into what the audience thoroughly enjoys onscreen.
You’ve really got to hand it to Affleck. Maybe at Oscar time, the Academy will.