Yes, this is really from the god damn movie.
Directed by Ben Affleck
Screenplay by Chris Terrio
I tapped out after about 15 minutes on this one, and normally, I’d just not review the thing on here, and tweet “argo sucks ass” and call it a day, but I gotta talk about this fucking thing. Because I look at a movie like this and I can’t understand the world I live in. This movie is so the antithesis of everything I value as far as movies are concerned (and what you, ideally, should value too) and it’s times like these I feel like the great Roddy Piper in They Live, staring at the plain-to-see ugliness in front of me, and I just wanna force glasses onto everyone around me with my words. So here goes.
Right off the bat, the movie makes me wanna turn it off, because Affleck has the 70’s Warner logo come up, complete with scratches and shit, instead of the modern day one. So that already bugs me. Not because there’s anything inherently wrong with this particular style of immersion (Tarantino does it well, and Raimi did it quite nicely in Drag Me To Hell) but in the case of this movie, I already know for sure that it will not go for a 70’s look or feel in any capacity. I know it’s gonna be a murky, digital filter, cut-all-the-time, ‘shaky cam’ fest like the Bourne movies or whatever, with the only remotely 70‘s aspect being ‘Beastie Boys – Sabotage’-esque mustaches and beards and hairpieces and glasses peppered throughout. Which means that the entire purpose of this old logo is to make the audience go “Ha! The 70’s were a time that happened and they had simplistic, scratchy logo cards back then.” It’s cheap, and reeks of lack of respect for arguably the greatest decade in American dramatic cinema. (Not to mention, lack of respect for the serious subject matter at hand.)
And then, the next logo (a modern one) has scratches and shit added, to ‘fit in’. And then, the opening titles begin, and roll with the cheapest, most 70’s looking font they could find. A font that is basically the 70’s equivalent of the Austin Powers font. And that is the end of our throwback escapade, because right after the word ARGO fades out, we are thrust into a two and a half minute animated prologue that has nothing at all to do with the vibe of what we just saw.
It is an ugly, modern piece of animation, where we zoom around CG, comic book style movie storyboard panels, intercut with archive footage, as Jennifer Garner narrates for us an absurdly summarized ‘once upon a time’-esque history of Iran (ruled by kings for thousands of years, ‘Shah’ means ‘king’) and then a brief history of the relationship between United States and the country, from the 50’s to the 70’s. The way she delivers this narration is like that of an attractive, daft-but-means-well elementary school teacher speaking to her students. It’s very patronizing, and quite offensive, especially since cartoon imagery is being mixed with photographs of actual human suffering.
Prologues are typically a last resort in the editing room when a studio is faced with a convoluted movie (almost always as a result of an inherently flawed script, mind you) and they need to make it make sense some how. For all I know, they did need to add one (I’m of the belief that the vast majority of movies don’t) but this surely was not the way to do it. If you’re gonna do one, at least have it be as brief and respectful and objective as possible. Maybe one black card, with three easy to read sentences dissolving in one by one or something. Anything but this.
What follows is the first scene of the movie (duh) which is, you guessed it (and I called it) a Bourne-era vomit-fest full of everything one should properly hate about modern action/thriller movies. But, more than that, it’s an example of time-wasting, bad editing, and bad screenwriting. Basically, militants are storming the American embassy in Iran, and the embassy staff is all confused about what to do. Particularly one specific group of about six ‘Listen All Y’all It’s a Sabotage’-esque 70‘s caricatures, who can’t decide if they should leave, if they should stay, if they should whatever. Zzz.
I say ‘Zzz’ because in a real movie, their arguing about what to do would actually tell us something about their characters. One guy would say something that makes sense, another guy would say something that doesn’t make sense, and another guy would say something sort of witty that makes a little sense but also doesn’t, etc., so that we learn something about each of the people in the group. Instead, they all sound like basically the same person. There is zero personality to the things they say, which means they are essentially making meaningless noises—just like the noises made by the militants rushing the place, who are depicted as brainless zombies (with a slight pinch of Team America terrorist-ness). There is literally no one to root for in this scene, except, I guess, the Americans (by default). It’s basically just chickens running around clucking—some chickens brown, some chickens white. And lots of cutting. So much cutting. And, for some weird reason, letterboxed 16mm-ish footage inserted randomly, I guess to make the goings on outside seem more ‘real’. It’s a total mess.
Lemme go back to the 70’s hair and costumes and stuff for a second though. Not everyone in the movie has it going on. Some look like they just stepped out of 2013. And I know not everyone in the 70’s had a stereotypically 70’s look, but basically the hyper 2013-ish cinematography makes the ones that don’t look like time travelers or something. It’s jarring. Had the movie been shot and lit closer to how 70’s movies actually were, that wouldn’t have happened. (Just one more reason it’s a shame they went the lazy, mainstream route.)
Now back to the movie. That first scene I was telling you about is like 10 minutes long. And there is zero character development and zero storytelling. It’s just stuff happening. Mostly it’s people running around and shredding documents and arguing about whether to leave and leaving and whatever. And lots of cutting to stuff in other parts of embassy for no reason—like literally cutting to far off room where people we don’t know yet and will never know are like shrugging or whatever. And then right after that shitty scene, we are treated to a Sorkin ripoff ‘men walking and talking’ scene. Yawn. Then a ‘men standing and taking’ scene, with the camera spinning around them like something interesting is happening, like they’re discussing Like a Virgin and the morality of tipping or something, rather than discussing political stuff we can’t possibly care about because no storytelling has occurred at all in this movie. Double yawn. Then another walk-and-talk scene. Triple yawn. There are so many god damn characters in this movie at this point, and not a single one is three-dimensional, and not a single one is the main character. And we’re 13 minutes in.
It isn’t until roughly the 15 minutes mark that we are introduced to Ben Affleck’s character (the main character, I guess). And how are we introduced? He’s sleeping in bed with his work clothes on, the phone is ringing, and he picks it up. And he’s all “Yeah. (Beat) What?” End of scene. Then he drives to the CIA and does a walk-and-talk scene there. Then a sit-and-talk scene. And we’re 18 minutes in. And I realize at this point that we’re really not going to have any character development for this character, or get to know him at all, and I should stop waiting for that to happen, because this is one of those movies without an actual protagonist or any actual storytelling or whatever. What do you call that again? Oh yeah—a bad movie.
If you were to break down who this ‘protagonist’ is, he’s basically a bearded guy who looks like Ben Affleck, and he likes listening to other people talk and asking questions occasionally. And I guess later on in the movie he makes decisions based on the information he garners from listening to people talk and asking questions here and there. And he probably talks to John Goodman and Alan Arkin at some point. But I really don’t fucking care. And you shouldn’t either. Because you’re not even the target audience, anyway.
The audience for this fucking thing is, primarily, other Hollywood people—infants who are mesmerized by constantly moving cameras and quick cutting and people walking as they talk and ooh John Goodman and ooh Alan Arkin and little one-liners about their industry that make them feel smart and ‘inside’ and OMG Hollywood saved the day in the 70’s by helping do something political-ish that worked or something. (Although apparently the film chock full of historical inaccuracies.)
Basically, this movie is about a covert plot under the guise of a movie, and it’s exactly that as well. Its sole purpose is to appeal to the horrendous taste of a very vain industry, and subsequently, win golden statuettes. Avoid it at all costs.
1 out of 5 Codys.