The Trouble with Quibbles: Argo

Argo is Ben Affleck’s directorial follow-up to The Town. It’s a political thriller set during the 1979 Iran Hostage Crisis. In order to rescue six U.S. Diplomats, the CIA enlists some Hollywood help to fake their way out of the predicament. The crazy part is the entire story is true. But more importantly what did Adam and I think of the movie?

ADAM: So, we were both really excited about seeing Ben Affleck’s next film. It was one of the movies on your fall preview list with which I concurred. And I did enjoy Argo, but not as much as The Town.

BRYAN: Don’t you go agreeing with me already!

ADAM: Argo is fun, it has a great cast, and a great premise, but Hollywood kinda seems to slow it down.

BRYAN: I don’t know about slowing it down.

ADAM: What would you say?

BRYAN: First off, this whole thing might end up sounding like we didn’t like the movie. But I think we both did. It’s one of those where you really, really like something, but you don’t love it. It can be problematic, but a nice problem to have.

ADAM: I love the acting in this movie. I like the movie.

BRYAN: The acting is fantastic. There is nothing wrong with that aspect. I think there are 3 things holding the film back. One, the actual implementation of the plan is too easy.

ADAM: I think I get what you’re saying, but how do you mean?

BRYAN: Well this mission was crazy. It’s an unbelievably true story. Coming up the this plan was nuts and I’m sure it was mega risky. In the film it is very suspenseful. But, once the plan is in place, things do go rather smoothly. There are a few hiccups, but Affleck’s character doesn’t really do anything to save the day other than coming up with the plan. Does that make sense? Like, he goes to Iran and all he needs to do is show the hostages some packets.

ADAM: It does make sense

BRYAN: I thought he needed more to do, and the stuff with his son wasn’t enough.

ADAM: You wanted an action subplot?

BRYAN: Not a subplot. I wanted him to have more to do. He kept saying this is what I do, he’s the best at his job. But all he does is teach people to memorize shit.

ADAM: I’m sure the real Tony Mendez appreciates your summary of his work.

BRYAN: Again, I like the movie. And he’s a brave motherfucker, but in film terms, that is a bit anticlimactic. Another “problem” is the point of the movie. It’s a great story, but the movie is anecdotal. This is a thing that happened and is interesting, but there isn’t much else to it than that.

ADAM: That doesn’t sound right at all to me. I don’t find it anecdotal.

BRYAN: Wrong word perhaps. The movie is only interested in getting this story across. It doesn’t really say anything about what went down.

ADAM: What do you mean it doesn’t say anything about what went down?

BRYAN: Let’s use Munich as an example. I’d say the films are similar. Munich has the thriller spy stuff on the surface, but the movie is really about cycles of violence. Argo is historical thriller, but I don’t think it says much about anything. There is a little bit about taking responsibility but it’s not much. And the film doesn’t have to say more to be good it was just one thing I felt was missing.

ADAM: Subtext isn’t really on my list of problems with the movie.

BRYAN: Well then, what bothered you? Seems like you didn’t appreciate the lighter Hollywood section.

ADAM: No, I liked the Hollywood section, they just seemed to be spinning their wheels for a bit with the public read-through of the script.

BRYAN: But that was funny and intercut with the hostage stuff so I didn’t mind.

ADAM: Very much a minor quibble. What was your third “problem”?

BRYAN: Well it’s more of a general observation about Affleck as a director and my personal preferences. Affleck is great at hiring people. He hires the best cinematographers, the best editors, the best actors etc. He writes tight scripts or in this case picks a good one. And he directs in a way that let’s all of those great people he hired do some of their best work. But for me, his films lack any distinct style. Some people love that, but personally I prefer it the other way. So what this means, for me anyways, is that Affleck will keep making really good movies that I’ll want to see and really like, but I wonder if he has a masterpiece in him. Again, hard to fault a guy who completely reinvented his career and doesn’t make bad movies. So this is another minor quibble.

ADAM: You have fun putting that cart before the horse.

BRYAN: You fucking say something then! Or maybe let’s talk about good stuff in the movie?

ADAM: I’ll just continue to enjoy watching Affleck make films reminiscent of films from the 70s, which he seems to love just as much as I do.

BRYAN: That’s what I said!

ADAM: No, you’re busy wondering if he’s got a masterpiece in him.

BRYAN: It’s a valid question.

ADAM: I don’t really care. Why does it matter?

BRYAN: I care. It matters to meeeeeeeeeeee! Anyways, how about that cast? Is Affleck trying to one up his cast with each new film? Ed Harris, Morgan Freeman, Amy Ryan to Jon Hamm, Jeremy Renner to this fucking movie. It’s an embarrassment of riches.

ADAM: Affleck is an actor’s director who’s made three good films. Who’d say no to that?

BRYAN: Which was your favorite performance in Argo?

ADAM: That’s really tough… but any movie with Alan Arkin in it makes it a bit easier to choose a favorite. My mind says I couldn’t pick a favorite. My gut says Alan Arkin.

BRYAN: He’s pretty great. I’d say Scoot McNairy. He disappears. He acts completely different from how I’ve seen him before and it looks like he’ll do the same in the upcoming Killing Them Softly and Promised Land.

ADAM: Scoot McNairy and Kerry Bishé are two names I think everyone should be familiar with. If not now, then very soon.

BRYAN: Agreed. I feel like everyone in the movie gets at least one scene to kick ass. It’s a great ensemble.

ADAM: It’s a great mix of new and familiar faces. I think Bryan Cranston and Affleck played off each other very well. Always love to watch John Goodman at work. Basically, Argo‘s cast is a list of people I like: Rory Cochrane, Tate Donavan, Kyle Chandler, Chris Messina, Clea DuVall, Zeljko Ivanek, Victor Garber, and, of course, Ben Affleck.

BRYAN: Does anyone look at that call sheet and scoff?

ADAM: Probably a reality TV-show loving PA from Toluca Lake.

BRYAN: I do prefer The Town, but that has guys robbing banks dressed as creepy nuns sooooooooooooo, you know.

ADAM: Agreed. I like Argo. It’s a paper chase, which is a bit less exciting than robbing banks. But, I understand they’re different movies. I was expecting more Spy Game and less All the President’s Men, but I like both movies, so I was not disappointed.

BRYAN: Yep. You can pretty much ignore all the bullshit I just talked about before because at the end of the day I would love to have a 100 more Argos (films I really like if not love) every year than most the crap we do get from studios. It’s thrilling, funny, and every actor is in top form. Go see it!


7 responses to “The Trouble with Quibbles: Argo

  1. Jose Garcia Jr.

    Great quibbles.
    I agree. I reallt like it, but love certain things. I loved all the Hollywood stuff. The mission was kinda easy but it fit the tone of the film, so I just went with it. But from what I’ve read the real mission went even easier.
    I think the subtext is about how awesome movies are. So awesome that a country would not really question a fim crew making a movie but embrace it. Thats what I got out of it.

  2. Jose Garcia Jr.

    Also, Affleck does have that 70’s touch. And letting actors do their thing is also its own style. So yes, he has style.

  3. Style sure…but not distinct style. You wouldn’t be able to turn on one of his movies and guess who directed it. (You as in not us movie geeks who know anyways)

  4. The movie thing is a little message too, you’re right.

    But like the responsibility thing, it isn’t much of a message as presented in the movie.

  5. Jose Garcia Jr.

    Yeah, you could say he doesn’t have a visual style.

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