Tuesday, 23 October 2012


If a film can sustain one's attention for most of two hours, does it particularly matter what quality the film is? In that moment, there is only the degree of immediate satisfaction which those images in conjunction with those sounds are delivering, and Argo is a supremely satisfying film in that regard. It is as light on its feet as Ben Affleck's other two films as director were heavy. It is most suspenseful, and rather than manipulate this suspense entirely, Affleck and editor William Goldenberg plumb their material for those elements therein which might prove most conducive to this aim. Argo is a popcorn thriller, less old-fashioned than reminiscent of films made by people who trusted and respected their audiences - the common view of these films is that they don't exist anymore, but here is one. Affleck, Goldenberg and writer Chris Terrio's approach is economical - there's barely a single moment this film could have sacrificed - which was a risky approach to take, requiring the storytelling to be simple enough and strong enough to refuse any viewer's mind the chance to wander, and this film is pure efficient storytelling from top to bottom. It is much tighter than The Town, and funnier than one might expect - the scenes with Alan Arkin and John Goodman are so good that I resented the shift in tone as the film progressed, a shift that was, however, necessary, and successful too, and I gladly relinquished my resentment. Affleck may be overseeing too lean an operation overall, as he declines any opportunities to indulge his more adventurous directorial impulses, which renders Argo a little forgettable, less potentially iconic; then there's the cheesy patriotic climax, undercutting much of the hard graft that went into making the preceding 20 minutes so exciting. But these are just issues of quality, after all. My attention was still on the screen, so they don't particularly matter.