Ben Affleck directed and starred in the thriller, a (reasonably) true story about the spiriting of six American diplomats out of Iran in the wake of the 1979 revolution. It seems like the man hasn't taken a misstep since Hollywoodland, and his is becoming a name I increasingly associate with quality filmmaking. With Argo, he assembles a top-notch cast and production team, hands them a solid screenplay, and polishes their work with the collaboration of editor William Goldenberg.
But wait - how can a movie about getting six Americans out of Iran be funny? It's all in the writing. While Argo is a thriller first, Screenwriter Chris Terrio wrote snappy, sharp dialogue for its Hollywood-based characters. A cast including Alan Arkin and John Goodman bring that dialogue to life, and Affleck and editor Goldenberg make it pop with perfectly arranged compositions, perfectly timed reaction shots, and a sense of momentum that allows levity while keeping the audience keyed in on the seriousness of the situation [Side note: Goldenberg won the 2013 Academy Award for editing for his work on Argo. Learning stuff like that while conducting basic research is part of the fun of writing this blog.].
That editing is also what makes the movie gripping. How do you make watching a phone ring interesting? By cutting footage of a lonesome phone in an empty room with footage of the man making the call, of the men racing to answer to the call, and the people whose lives depend on the outcome of that call. Argo is filled with this kind of stuff, taking the mundane aspects of the operation at hand and lending them urgency through top-notch editing.
In short, Argo is a testament to the value of craft, to polishing a script and casting the right people and getting the hair and makeup just so and editing the footage with a perfect blade. The result? Another winner for Ben Affleck. May he bring us many more.