Few complaints in Oscar-worthy ‘Argo’

As the Oscar race heats up, studios are releasing some of their top quality pictures into theaters. One of the early contenders, “Argo,” is now making its mark.

The film is nearly flawless in its acting, cinematography, directing, music and pace. The critical darling has garnered a score of universal acclaim on Metacritic, an online review aggregator.

“Argo” follows actor and director Ben Affleck as Tony Mendez, a CIA agent specialized in extraction, during his attempted escape from enemy territory. After the 1979 Iranian Hostage Crisis begins, Mendez is called in to extract six American Embassy employees who managed to escape the building before Iranians stormed the embassy. Mendez creates a cover using a fake Hollywood production called “Argo” to convince Iranian guards the six hostages are a Canadian film crew. The movie is easily one of the year’s best and is well worth your money, but here are a few minimal critiques:

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Karsten Burgstahler: Issues about some facts’ validity have been brought up, including the film’s heart-pounding climax in an airport. Tony Mendez, the man behind the film’s inspiration, said the actual escape went a lot smoother than depicted.

Austin Flynn: Although the movie said “based on true events,”  I wasn’t expecting it to be an exact replication of the extraction.

Sure, Affleck gets a little grandiose at times, but the airport scene didn’t really upset me. I knew there was no way it was completely true to what happened. Affleck made a few far stretches, but it only happened when it absolutely benefitted the plot. After all, this is a movie. It’s not a History Channel special.

KB: I agree. The film builds up an incredible amount of tension, so it would be awkward to have the movie end with a non-event. However, I think it may take a hit in Oscar voters’ eyes because the story had to be changed for more excitement. The tense climax may be viewed as too mainstream. Hopefully the Oscars will recognize that mainstream cinema can be just as valuable as the art house.

On the cut role of Bryan Cranston, who played a CIA agent who directs Mendez during his assignment.

KB: “Argo” did a good job of pacing, but certain actors received the short shift to keep tension high, especially Bryan Cranston. Reviewing the actual story, most of Cranston’s parts didn’t actually happen. He was underused for the quality of acting he performed.

AF: Cranston’s role may have been intermittent throughout the film, but the few scenes he had to shine were pivotal to the plot. He played a major part in the film’s climactic sequences, so he was definitely given the spotlight in scenes that mattered even though he wasn’t a film constant.

KB: I have to thank Affleck for changing the airport scene. Otherwise Cranston’s role would have been smaller. But I’m not sure that the one or two spotlight scenes really do him justice. Maybe I should just be thankful for Cranston’s presence in the movie to begin with. He elevates the proceedings quite well.

On the role of the six American hostages hiding out at the Canadian ambassador’s house.

KB: They were underdeveloped, and none were too memorable. A little more development could have added even more tension during the film’s climax. They had spent months in captivity, and I didn’t really feel the paranoia that would’ve developed. Of course, the film compensates for this issue by developing Affleck well.

AF: One might argue that they weren’t memorable enough, but they were very commendable in their performances. There’s no movie without the hostages, and there’s no tensions without solid performances from each one. That’s clearly not the case here. I might not remember each hostage’s name, but I remember their performances and that’s good enough.

‎2hr 0min‎ - ‎Rated R‎ - ‎Drama‎

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About Karsten Burgstahler

Karsten Burgstahler can be reached at kburgstahler@dailyegyptian.com or 536-3311 ext.255.

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