Decent Films Mail > Mailbag #24

Re: Argo (2012)

I must say that in the past I have always agreed with your 4-star / A reviews. With your review of Argo however I have to disagree. Yes, the movie was humorous at points and I enjoyed the inside jokes and references. But there was one major failing: The movie completely failed at making me care about the people waiting to be rescued.

I also didn’t much care for the main character that much. So at the high points of the movie, when the viewer is supposed to be full of tension, I was left in a curiously bland state. None of the characters were truly established in the movie except for the makeup artist and the producer — both very one dimensional but entertaining characters.

The movie would have been much better and worthy of your grades had either the main character or the rescued characters been established with the same flair.

After over a dozen years, I’m a little surprised to meet anyone who’s always agreed with my 4-star / A reviews!

In this case, the sticking point for you is one of the very things I like about Argo. I remember complaints like this about United 93, but I appreciate a film, particularly a historical film that is more or less about a real event, that focuses on the event — that eschews the whole mechanics of characterization, motivation, psychology, back story, character arc, etc.

In a movie of this kind, things like that can be, to my mind, a distraction — a distancing or even alienating form of fictionalization. I like the fact that we don’t get to know the Americans in hiding particularly well. I like the fact that Tony Mendez is essentially a guy in a suit. The point of the movie, for me, is what happened, not to whom it happened.

I realize not everyone relates to this kind of movie this way, but that’s how I see it.

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