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Argo

‘Argo’ proves the phrase ‘truth is stranger than fiction’.  Based on true events surrounding the 1979 Iran hostage crisis, its story is one no one would believe had it not been real.  Director and star Ben Affleck oversees these factual elements with a steady hand that made previous directorial efforts ‘Gone Baby Gone’ and ‘The Town’ so effective.  Like fellow performer George Clooney, he has seamlessly moved behind the camera to helm genuinely gripping productions such as his latest.

 

When the American embassy is invaded by Islamic militants, most of its staff are held hostage.  Six manage to escape and hide in the home of Canadian ambassador Ken Taylor (Victor Garber).  Learning of this, the CIA brings in consultant Tony Mendez (Ben Affleck) to devise a way to safely extradite them.  Proposing to go under-cover as a film-maker location scouting for a science fiction movie called ‘Argo’, Tony aims to make the six escapees his ‘film crew’.  Entering dangerous territory, time and co-operation become paramount.

 

Coming of age as a Director, Ben Affleck makes ‘Argo’ an engaging experience.  Much of this intensity comes from the contrast of Hollywood’s ‘reel’ world vs. the reality in Iran.  Although at total extremes both are matched by the ruthlessness of its main players.  Affleck effectively conveys this enigma with skill as the cinematic corporate movers target their prey with as much zeal as those on the opposite side of the world.  He is well served by a stand-out cast managing to mostly down-play an occasionally histrionic script.

 

Although most likely taking some factual liberties to enliven its story, ‘Argo’ generally has a good sense of reality.  There’s genuine compassion to be felt not just for the six escapees but for all those caught in the conflict.  Whilst the ‘desperate escape from battle’ motif is nothing movies haven’t done before, it’s made more engrossing here due to the urgency everyone faces.  Affleck also brings some surprising levity with the scenes set in Hollywood embodying the rather fanciful but audacious path to freedom.

 

It’s been a pleasure watching Affleck find his directorial feet with ‘Argo’ his most accessible work.  Whilst certain sequences needed to be toned down a little, he has a gift in telling a good story – one that should keep him in good stead for the years ahead.

 

Rating out of 10:  8

 

Frankenweenie

One of Tim Burton’s earliest works was a short movie called ‘Frankenweenie’.  An ode to the vintage horror films he loved, it gained him Hollywood’s attention.  It’s obvious he has never forgotten the accolades it gave and he returns to the material in this animated remake.  Full of the quirky mix of humour and thrills for which he is renowned, his ability in telling a beguiling story remains undimmed.

 

Victor Frankenstein is a young boy living with his parents and adored dog Sparky.  When Sparky is killed in an accident, Victor is despondent.  His sadness doesn’t last as he discovers a way to resurrect his deceased pet.  Digging up its corpse he successfully revives it during an electrical storm.  Little does he know of the trouble he unleashes when fellow class-mates decide to replicate his audacious plan.

 

‘Frankenweenie’ once again exhibits Burton’s flair in making the macabre so enjoyable.  Filmed in bleak black and white the colourful story bursts to life in all its gothic splendour.  You genuinely care for Victor and the cast of peculiar denizens as events spiral out of control.  That’s the key to a good animated film – bringing characters to life and identifying with some of their traits. 

 

Unlike recent similar efforts, it has a timelessness devoid of cheap gags and makes an effort in being amusing.  This is very much for all ages with a great blend of genre styles.  These elements create a beguiling monster-mash with the many references to cinema’s horror classics providing much fiendish fun.  There are some messages if one looks for them with broadening one’s horizons a theme anyone can relate with.

 

‘Frankenweenie’ is an enjoyably atmospheric tale revelling in its weirdness.  It’s nice seeing Burton re-working his original material and his catalogue of hits has proven his fertile imagination is perfect for the silver screen’s large canvas.

 

Rating out of 10:  7