What’s this Argo obsession that Sasha Stone, Kris Tapley, Roger Ebert are putting out? Drop to your knees in worship? What film can steal its Best Picture thunder? Will you guys please take it easy? Argo is a very fine thing — a well-crafted, highly satisfying caper film with a certain patriotic resonance that basically says “job well done, guys…you should be proud.” But the hosannahs are a bit much.
Argo is proof that director-star Ben Affleck has clearly, seriously upped his game. He really is the new Sydney Pollack, and I say that as someone who knew, enjoyed, occasionally chatted with and deeply respected the director of Three Days of the Condor, Tootsie, The Yakuza, Out of Africa, The Firm, The Way We Were, etc.
But Argo is basically a movie designed to enthrall, charm, amuse, thrill, move and excite. It’s a comfort-blanket movie that basically says “this was the problem, and this is how it was solved…and the guys who made it happen deserve our applause and respect…no?” Yes, they do. But above all Argo aims to please. It skillfully creates suspense elements that probably weren’t that evident when the story actually went down. And it throws in two or three divorced-father-hangs-with-young-son scenes, and some CIA razmatazz and a few ’80s Hollywood cheeseball jokes and basically lathers it all on.
We all liked it in Telluride, but audiences in Scranton, Detroit, Ft. Lauderdale, Bakersfield, Terre Haute and Hartford will really love it.
I keep thinking about that jacked-up suspense finale that “works” but doesn’t feel genuine. You know it doesn’t. That last nail-biting bit with the police cars hot-dogging the departing jet on the Tehran airport runway? Standard Hollywood bullshit.
If I was a high-school teacher and Argo was a term paper, I would give it an 87 or 88. Okay, an 89. It’s obviously good, but it’s not constructed of the kind of material that ages well. It is not a film that exudes paralyzing greatness. Like many highly regarded Hollywood films, it adheres to familiar classic centrist entertainment values…and there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s very pleasing thing, but it’s a fucking caper film. Boil it down and it’s Ocean’s 11 set in Washington, D.C., L.A. and Tehran of 1978 and ’89 without the money or the flip glamorous vibe or the Clooney-Pitt-Damon-Cheadle combustion.
Just get a grip, is all I’m saying. Tone it down.