Taking a break from morning schoolwork/post-debate blogosphere (which I admit has engulfed me more than usual) to give a li’l plug for Ben Affleck’s new film Argo which is about a CIA rescue attempt during the infamous Iran hostage crisis involving Canadians and a fake Hollywood film. It’s good, and it passes the wife test, though not quite the historical accuracy test. The former is more important, anyway. Plus, unlike Catch Me If You Can, the movie isn’t ruined by looking up the actual events. Affleck takes actual situations and enhances them rather than chopping the true story up into digestible, Oscar-flagged, Spielbergable bits. He takes to the story with some real cinematic humility both evident in his muted character and how he wraps drama around historical situations instead of hopelessly reshuffling them.
So, go see it. Don’t sit around reading about it. Plus you get to see Rory Cochrane in the Carter years again…
Except he looks a little different this time…
Still groovy, though. Plus, I know all of you want to see John Goodman and Alan Arkin as slovenly Hollywood producers. Just the perfect dash of fun into the serious situation.
Anyway, this one’s got my personal stamp of approval (for those of you who care about that). So go see it. Also, and this is totally not a spoiler, the cherry on top is a brief cameo-esque scene with none other than the legendary Jack Kirby played by holy cr…oh my…was that? Michael Parks????? Definitely an interstellar movie anomaly worth the price of admission for those who have enjoyed the careers of both men.
(kinda’ sorta’ potential spoilers ahead).
I really enjoyed the thematic landscape here: placing the world of Hollywood sci-fi films as a picture of the evolved American dream of innocence and intercultural cooperation as a counterpoint to the monomaniacal realities of Muslim extremism. Walking the sets of the century’s crappiest and most exploitational movies, one is allowed to feel Iran’s righteous indignation in hating the vapidity of American culture, but the film digs deeper than that, making a subtle apology for American innocence embodied in Hollywood. Affleck also proves to be quite insightful in pointing out the historical truth that these very same films have captivated people the world over, sparking great ire on the part of moralists of all stripes. Affleck asks us to realize the seeds that captivate us, and understand what part of that dream is worth preserving.
There are only 2 potential downsides that I’ll discuss briefly.
1. We don’t get a good enough sense of who Affleck’s Mendez really is. That’s no doubt intentional, since it has a lot to do with the runaways’ hesitance to go along with him combined with the film’s nod Mendez’s real-life humility.
2. The credits include a baffling audio tag from President Jimmy Carter, first giving deserved accolades to Tony Mendez’s efforts, but then he actually has the gall to sort of celebrate the whole hostage episode as a triumph of peaceful international relations. Um…there’s nothing peaceful about 444 days of American servicepeople under the guns of terrorists fearing for their lives capped off by a horribly rushed and embarrassingly unsuccessful rescue attempt suspiciously close to election day that could’ve gotten every one of them killed. Really shoulda’ cut ol’ Jimmy short on that one.