Rave reviews boost Oscar hopes of ‘Argo’

Argo” opened Friday to some of the strongest reviews of the year. Currently, the film scores a solid 87 on MetaCritic, based on 40 notices. 

Ben Affleck helmed this taut thriller set against the backdrop of the revolution in 1979 Tehran. He also stars as real-life CIA operative Tony Mendez who extracted six Americans from Iran during the 1979 hostage crisis. To ferret them out of the country, Mendez cooked up a cover story that they are part of a production team scouting locations for a Hollywood movie. 

Among those lauding Affleck for his third feature are Roger Ebert (Chicago Sun-Times) who said, “The craft in this film is rare. It is so easy to manufacture a thriller from chases and gunfire, and so very hard to fine-tune it out of exquisite timing and a plot that’s so clear to us we wonder why it isn’t obvious to the Iranians.”

And Manohla Dargis (New York Times) was equally wowed: “Mr. Affleck handles his own roles, on camera and behind it, with a noticeable lack of self-aggrandizement. He doesn’t show off with his direction or the performances, going for detail instead of bombast with eerie silences, traded glances, trembling gestures and beaded sweat.” 

Affleck is the frontrunner in the directing race (with odds of  and could reap his first acting bid as well. He also produced this Warner’s release with George Clooney and Grant Heslov who earned a Best Picture nod for “Good Night, and Good Luck.” The top-notch script is by Chris Terrio who adapted an article in Wired magazine that detailed the escape. 

Affleck assembled a slew of award-winning talent on both sides of the camera. The cast includes Oscar champ Alan Arkin (“Little Miss Sunshine,” 2006) as a Hollywood producer, Emmy champ John Goodman as the makeup expert, Emmy winner Bryan Cranston (“Breaking Bad”) as a fellow operative and Emmy nominee Victor Garber as the Canadian ambassador. Of this quartet, Arkin has the showiest role and could easily pick up an Oscar bookend. 

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Oscar nominee Rodrigo Prieto (“Brokeback Mountain”) handled lensing while Oscar nominee William Goldenberg (“Seabiscuit,” “The Insider”) was the cutter. The 1970s costumes were done by Oscar nominee Jacqueline West (“The Social Network,” “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”).  And four-time Oscar contender Alexandre Desplat (“The King’s Speech,” “The Queen”) did the score. 

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