Argo (2012)

argo-poster1Starring Ben Affleck, Bryan Cranston, Alan Arkin, John Goodman, Victor Garber, Tate Donovan, Clea DuVall, Scoot McNairy, Rory Cochrane, Christopher Denham, Kerry Bishé

Directed by Ben Affleck

Expectations: I don’t know. Not much, but the Oscar win has intrigued me.

twohalfstar


I had a lot of problems with Argo while I was watching it, but in the end, it’s a good movie. Emphasis on “movie,” as while Argo might be based on a true story, the dramatized events in Argo stretch the limits of believability far beyond anything you’d expect in a film with its roots in actual history. The film doesn’t need a documentary approach or strict adherence to facts; I’m aware it’s a movie and I’m prepared to be entertained. But when the climax of your political thriller reminds me of the very over-the-top John Woo movie Face/Off, you know that you’ve gone too far. Argo is exciting, no doubt, but I simply cannot overlook its treatment of history.

But it’s clear that Argo and its producers know that most people don’t care. They take the story of the American embassy being stormed by angered Iranians and embellish it to the point of a simple heist thriller. There are six Americans caught in unfriendly territory, and only rogue CIA agent Ben Affleck is wily enough to get ’em out! He’s got one hell of an idea for a rescue, and it’s just crazy enough to work! Throw in fantastic small roles for John Goodman and Alan Arkin as a couple of Hollywood types, and you’ve got yourself one of the more entertaining films of 2012. Irresponsible and ridiculous, for sure, but definitely entertaining.

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Contagion (2011)

Starring Matt Damon, Marion Cotillard, Laurence Fishburne, Jude Law, Gwyneth Paltrow, Kate Winslet, Bryan Cranston, Jennifer Ehle, Sanaa Lathan, Elliott Gould, Anna Jacoby-Heron

Directed by Steven Soderbergh

Expectations: High, I have a good feeling about this one.


I’m not a huge Steven Soderbergh fan, but I respect him immensely. Where most Oscar-winning directors are happy to stay sheltered within the studio system once they receive their acclaim, Soderbergh is not one to be shackled to any one genre or tied to any specific type of film. He consistently makes the films he wants to make, casting unknown actors in one film and then following it up with a slickly produced Ocean’s Eleven film. If there’s one style that has become synonymous with his name though, it’s the ensemble cast drama, even if he hasn’t really made too many of them. Traffic was clearly his defining film for most people (and me as well), so going into Contagion I had an idea that it would be “Traffic with germs”.

That’s pretty much what I got, but that’s far too simple of a way to put it. It both sells the film short and fails to convey the triumph that Soderbergh has achieved with Contagion. There have been lots of viral epidemic movies throughout the years, but never have they been as hyper-realistic as this. Contagion methodically moves from day-to-day, tracking the course of the outbreak across the world. It focuses on a number of people in various locations around the world, and together their stories weave into an overall picture of the epidemic story that is Contagion. It’s like a disease procedural, so if you zoned out or got bored during this paragraph, then perhaps this film is not for you. If, on the other hand, this sounds interesting and up your alley, then definitely give Contagion a shot.

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Drive (2011)

Starring Ryan Gosling, Carey Mulligan, Bryan Cranston, Albert Brooks, Oscar Isaac, Christina Hendricks, Ron Perlman, Kaden Leos, Jeff Wolfe

Directed by Nicolas Winding Refn

Expectations: High, everyone’s hype has gotten to me.


If only Drive was able to keep up the level of awesome displayed in its opening scene. The first ten minutes of the film are pure, intense filmmaking filled with tension, suspense and fantastic editing. There’s virtually no dialogue: only wonderful sound FX, the chatter of a police radio and intensely brilliant visuals. This getaway scene is everything I could ever want out of a movie called Drive, and honestly, I would have been better served by the film if I had just gotten up upon its conclusion and taken my satisfied grin with me.

With an opening like this, and a title like Drive, one wouldn’t be wrong to expect a movie that contains lots of car action. Drive only gets more and more frustrating as it goes on if you have these expectations though, as very little actual driving takes place. Literally, the next substantial driving scene after that extended prologue is about an hour later. C’mon, WTF! If this is the case, what takes up so much of Drive‘s time then, you ask? Poor character development and clichéd romance & mafia sub-plots, that’s what!

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