First up in my excursion through the 2013 Oscar nominees for Best Picture is Ben Affleck’s critically acclaimed brainchild, Argo. The film takes the audience through the perilous journey of CIA operative Tony Mendez and his attempt to rescue six U.S. diplomats from Tehran during the 1979 Iran hostage crisis. With a well-written script, quirky performances, and powerful cinematography, Argo should prove to be a formidable opponent for the title.
To begin, I use the term “quirky” to describe the performances because in all honesty, they were not particularly alluring. While Alan Arkin had a likeable performance in his role as veteran film producer Lester Siegel, the fact of the matter is, the film did not truly allow for gripping performances. It is a story about a group of individuals who must remain undetected if they wish to survive. As such, many of the performances are intentionally understated. While this played nicely into the overall tone of the film, it also came with the undeniable side effect of stifling the actors (though for good reason). That said, none of the performances shattered the overall illusion of the film. Quite the contrary, together, they formed to create a realistic product that demands empathy.
Most significantly, it was Argo’s superior screenplay that brought the film to Oscar-worthy heights. In particular, Argo succeeded in pushing its audience along a well-paced road of tension. Argo acts like a dog with a bone in which it sinks its teeth into its audience’s nerves and refuses to let go. Whether it be pertaining to the home life of Affleck’s character, a trip to a dangerous city center, or a last minute escape sequence, Argo continues building tension until the resolution of the film’s major conflict. In doing so, audiences are invested and seeking resolution until the very end.
This aforementioned tension was only strengthened by the exemplary cinematography that Argo implemented. The daunting images used throughout (both reenacted and original footage) required little elaboration. In fact, perhaps some of the most powerful moments of the film were simply the characters’ reactions to the horrendous scenes in Iran. These moments required no dialogue and no articulated explanation. Simple expressions of shared shock and terror more than sufficed. The imagery spoke for itself, inspiring intended emotion in its viewers, helping them form a concrete connection to the story that was unfolding in front of them.
At this point, it is difficult to say whether Argo has what it takes to win the title of Best Picture of 2013. But with such clear strengths woven into the film, it is clear that this will be a tough act to follow. Argo is Affleck at his best and is sure to be a classic addition to my collection upon its home release on February 19, 2013.
Overall Score: 9.6/10
Next up: Silver Linings Playbook (Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Robert De Niro)