“Argo” review: Is Ben Affleck’s latest film all hype?

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Owen Karoscik, Assistant Entertainment Editor

“Argo,” Ben Affleck’s third movie as a director, has been serenaded with tremendous praise from critics, calling it one of the year’s best films. Lou Lumenick, a writer for the New York Post, called the film a “A blue-chip Oscar contender that’s also a rousing popcorn movie.”

While many critics and average viewers alike seem to agree with Lumenick , as evidenced by a 96% fresh rating on rottentomatoes.com, I beg to differ.

I went into the theater expecting to see what Joe Morgenstern of the Wall Street Journal said “exults in what a movie can do when its story has a compelling core.” Instead, I walked out utterly confused at what all the fuss was about.

I am not a big fan of Ben Affleck’s acting ability, but I was overwhelmingly impressed by his last two films as a director, “Gone Baby Gone” (2007) and “The Town” (2010). However, Affleck doesn’t do himself any favors working with a script that seems to rush the plot instead of building it.

The plot revolves around the Iranian hostile takeover of the U.S. Embassy in 1979. Out of the 444 days, the movie revolves around the first four months of the CIA’s plan to rescue six Americans who escaped and sought refuge in the residence of the Canadian ambassador.

Agent Tony Mendez, played by Affleck, comes up with an “insane” idea of going to Iran claiming to be a producer from a Canadian film production company scouting locations for a sci-fi epic and sneaking the Americans out posing as crew members. To make the project look legit, Tony and the CIA conspire with film producer Lester Siegel (Oscar winner Alan Arkin) and make-up artist John Chambers (John Goodman) to get a script made, set up a fake studio, hire the cast, market the movie through articles in newspapers and magazines, and get funding from the CIA. The title of their “fake” movie: “Argo.”  Why? The characters cannot even answer that question.

I will say that there are some pros to this movie. Arkin and Goodman add tremendous comic relief through all the down-to-earth seriousness of the story. The suspense is very high during the climax, which features the escape. But even given all that, I cannot praise this movie as an Oscar contender. It’s no “Schindler’s List” or “There Will Be Blood,” and comparing the three would be like comparing an apple, orange, and pomegranate. “Argo” is decent for a made-for-television movie, but to make it into a feature film and crown it “best of the year” makes it overrated in my book.