I’m a huge fan of the Ben Affleck revival period. He started making better choices with his movie roles with Hollywoodland and he seemed to completely resuscitate his career after directing Gone Baby Gone. His second directorial effort, The Town, was one of my favorite movies in 2010 and his more recent turns as an actor have been quite good. So how would his third directorial effort fare?
Simply put, Argo was easily one of the most enjoyable movie going experiences of the year for me. This film just feels like a filmmaker firing on all cylinders. The way the movie is pieced together, the emotions brought out of each scene, the unwavering tension throughout, Affleck knocked this one out of the park.
The opening scene moves with such urgency and the way each shot is put together puts a sense of unrest into the audience. From that moment on you’re put on edge and you understand the stakes set for the rest of the movie. For a lot of the movie’s runtime I was transfixed to the screen. It’s been a while since a thriller has gotten me so invested in a film that my heart felt like it was in my throat the entire time.
Affleck assembled a wonderful cast to build this movie on with players like Bryan Cranston, Alan Arkin, John Goodman, Kyle Chandler, Chris Messina, Victor Garber, etc. I want to single out the mostly unknown Scoot McNairy, because I thought he added a much needed emotional boost to the movie. Overall, the acting by everyone was top notch.
As much as I loved the movie overall, I don’t think Argo is perfect. The movie does employ a few cliched movie-isms in order to draw out tension. Particularly the end sequence, but I’ll save that discussion for after the “read more” break so I don’t spoil it.
Another somewhat disappointing element was how underwritten Ben Affleck’s Tony Mendez character is. We get the obligatory family element in order to make us care for the character, but we don’t know how or why Mendez got into the infiltration expertise. We don’t really understand why his job is important to him, he just kind of does it.
I have to say that watching the credits, it was a little odd how Affleck cast himself in the lead role considering the real life Tony Mendez is clearly Hispanic. I’m one of those people who is fervently against white washing in movies, so it’s a little sad that he couldn’t cast an actor of Hispanic descent. That’s a minor nitpick though.
While I’m not sure that Argo ever exceeds Gone Baby Gone or The Town, it is still a solid follow up to those two fantastic movies. This is good old-fashioned filmmaking at its finest and its a damn shame that Argo is the exception and not the rule as far as Hollywood goes these days. I hope Ben Affleck keeps directing films because he is clearly a director to be reckoned with.
SPOILERS after the “read more” break!Read more
First trailer for Ben Affleck’s third directorial effort, Argo.
I have to say that it looks quite good. I do think that the trailer was all over the place tonally. At first it looked like a serious political thriller, then it kind of changed to a caper, and then it got all serious again towards the end. I love Ben Affleck as a director (Gone Baby Gone and The Town are both phenomenal) and I’m curious to see what he’ll do with a film not set in Boston.
I have to say that I was disappointed that Kyle Chandler only has a split second shot in this trailer (at 2:08). I guess his role isn’t that big in this film =/ I’ve always got love for any Friday Night Lights actors but Kyle Chandler is the fucking man in my opinion.
I heard of Contagion a very long time ago, I think maybe 2 years ago? The amount of Academy Award winners and nominees in this movie is absolutely ridiculous. Winners: Steven Soderbergh, Matt Damon, Gwyneth Paltrow, Marion Cotillard, Kate Winslet; nominees: Jude Law, Laurence Fishburne, John Hawkes, Eliott Gould. Plus Emmy Award winner Bryan Cranston. So we know the talent was immense, but how was the movie?
What’s odd about this film is that I usually bash films that introduce a multitude of characters and create short arcs for them, but for some reason it works in Contagion. I don’t know if it’s the cold, calculating manner that the stories are handled with or the nice little subtle nuances, but a lot of this movie works for me. I suppose having a great director and a top flight cast doesn’t hurt. There are so many characters here that the fact that there’s so many great names attached almost feels like a deliberate attempt to cash in on our feelings for those actors in general to skip out on character development, yet at the same time I don’t feel like the film was disingenuous.
I’ve heard people make comparisons to Soderbergh’s film Traffic, and I think the comparisons are apt. Whereas that film had a wide scope on the world of drugs, Contagion does it with an infectious disease. I love the realism of this movie. There are certain moments that could have been played up for dramatic effect that are instead just done in a matter-of-factly way because that’s how it would happen in real life. When someone dies, they often don’t get to say this huge speech or convey a life lesson, they just die. The coldness of this film helps separate it from other films of this ilk.
The execution of this film is definitely what separates it from the rest. There are so many small little real life touches that make each character feel real. I never thought that anything that happened in this film was preposterous or stupid. Each character has their own personality and deals with this epidemic in their own way. Sure, there are subplots that don’t feel as satisfying as others, but what works generally outweighs what doesn’t.
Contagion works as a sprawling thriller that takes a serious look at how the world would cope with a widespread contagious disease. There is so much that is covered in such a short amount of time, but the film does so much well. It hits on many themes and explores the shortcomings of society. Do not go into Contagion for a “movie” movie. By that I mean I don’t go in expecting shocking plot twists or many movie-isms. Contagion is a well executed movie about how we would realistically deal with an epidemic and everything that comes with that.
Edit: Special shout out to Jude Law as the crazy blogger. I can’t stop quoting his line from the trailer with his accent in this film “On die wun dare wuz tew peeple, end den for, end den seexteen. In three munths it’s a BEELYUN! That’s-ware-wee’re-hetted!” LOL!
I cannot fully express in words how freakin’ excited I was for this film! I never thought I’d get THIS excited for another film again after Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 (okay, I know that was like 2 months ago, but seriously!). I will say that it is odd, but really fortunate, that this film is getting such a wide release. I haven’t seen any advertisements for this movie online, on TV, in theaters, anywhere really. I never saw the green band trailer playing in front of any movies this year, I only saw the red band one online and I would actually recommend you not see that trailer because it kind of gives too much away. Then again, I was so captivated by the film that I never for a second found my attention drifting and thinking of what I saw in the trailer.
The amount of hype for this film has been unbelievable. The director Nicolas Winding Refn (the Pusher trilogy, Bronson) won the Best Director prize at the Cannes Film Festival, there’s the beyond stellar cast, and the film received glowing reviews coming out of Cannes, even earning a standing ovation from the crowd after the screening. It blew up RottenTomatoes, currently sitting at 93% with an 8.3 average rating. I had extraordinarily high expectations for this film and I am glad to say that it not only met them, but surpassed them.
Nicolas Winding Refn is truly a visionary director who should go down as one of the greatest directors of his generation. He has his own style and flair that separates him from the rest. I can’t remember the last time I was this enthralled during a chase scene. On a scant 13 million dollar budget, Refn manages to craft action/chase sequences that top movies with 150+ million dollar budgets.
I have to give consideration to the Director of Photography, Newton Thomas Sigel, as well because the film was flat out gorgeous. The way the shots are composed are simply spectacular. I don’t know how many ways I can say that this movie was a visual treat and amazing in every way.
The soundtrack is a highlight of the film as well. It seems as if every single music selection was done with a purpose and with the utmost care. The soundtrack enhances certain sequences and brings out the emotions of scenes without feeling manipulative. I’ve had the soundtrack on repeat since I got out of the movie. One of the best soundtracks I’ve heard in a while.
Ryan Gosling… he just might be my favorite actor right now. As the unnamed “Driver” in this film, he shows us a side that he’s never shown before. I wondered how an actor who is so used to playing charming pretty boys or more subtle characters would do as a bad ass. I’ve gushed about this man before, but he honestly never disappoints me and in Drive he puts in one of his best performances ever. And that’s not a statement to be taken lightly considering the impressive filmography he’s amassed to date. Ryan Gosling is not just another handsome face in the Hollywood crowd, he is what every actor should aspire to be, a true artist dedicated to his craft. I don’t think I’ve ever seen any actor play such a stoic and reserved character this way. Someone distant and unemotional, who can still remain likable and in an instant change gears and become the most frightening thing you’ve ever seen. My pull quote for Ryan Gosling in this film is that Gosling says more with one look than many actors are able to say in entire movies. I am not fucking kidding, he is THAT good. I simply love this man and I love his work, Ryan Gosling I FUCKING LOVE YOU!
The rest of the stellar cast does excellent work as well. Carey Mulligan is another one of those young actresses that is destined for greatness and her turn here is no exception. Bryan Cranston is just Bryan Cranston, and by that I mean he’s fucking awesome. This movie has Albert Brooks in it, HANK MOTHERFUCKIN’ SCORPIO BITCHES!!! Ron Perlman and Christina Hendricks have considerably less screentime but both are great in the little bits that they have. I will say that it was weird to see Christina Hendricks wearing modern clothing after watching so much Mad Men haha.
The movie is very understated and doesn’t hold your hand and outright explain every little detail or plot development. I always appreciate it when a movie doesn’t feel the need to explain everything, but at the same time doesn’t confuse the audience as well. There is just so much weight and importance packed into every single frame, each line of dialogue, or a simple gesture. I just love this damn movie so much!
I know there are people out there who probably wouldn’t like this movie because it doesn’t fit their taste or sensibilities as a movie goer, but I’m one of those crazy people who thinks that if a movie is great, everyone should see it. Despite the fact that there are still dozens of major releases left this year, I have no doubt that Drive will retain a spot in my top 10 for the year. Virtuoso direction from Nicolas Winding Refn, one of Ryan Gosling’s best performances to date, thrilling action/chase sequences, this movie has it all. I’m planning on seeing it again before it leaves theaters, maybe even multiple times. Do not miss this movie in theaters! You will regret it!
Currently working on my review of Nicolas Winding Refn’s Drive. Amazing movie and a fantastic soundtrack. Loved the usage of this song! It’s called “A Real Hero” by College featuring Electric Youth.