Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Argo fuck yourself.

And so the Academy clasps another crushingly mediocre and undeserving film to its geriatric bosom. Seriously, you think this is the best film of the year? This entertaining but overwhelmingly cliched thriller is the height of cinematic achievement for 2012? You must be shitting me.

Listen to this. You’re watching a film that’s supposedly based on a true story. Therefore, you invest a certain amount of faith that most of the events depicted on the screen are based on some sort of truth. Of course you’re not naive enough to believe that everything happens as it did in real life. You know that some things have to be changed for dramatic licence. But then you come to the ending.

The end of the film sees a group of American diplomats trying to flee Iran. The authorities are trying to locate them and their lives are in danger. But somehow, under a fake cover, they make their way to the airport. Simultaneously, little Iranian children are putting together shredded pictures of the diplomats so that the authorities can identify the missing Americans.

There’s much sweating of palms as the Americans progress through the different levels of security at the Iranian airport. Will they blow their cover? Will they be captured? WIll they lose that ridiculous facial hair?

There’s an undeniable level of tension in this sequence. Having once had to spend quite a while trying to convince an American border official that it was okay for me to enter the country (apparently I’d been visiting too much!), I know how scary and stressful these situations can be. But certain things in Argo just don’t make sense. For instance, we find out, after the Iranian revolution, that stricter immigration procedures have been put in place. Part of this involves customs forms. When someone enters the country, they fill out a form. A copy is given to the border official and the passenger gets to keep a copy, too. Then when the visitor leaves, the two forms are married together, so that the official knows that the the visitor entered the country legally and that they’ve left.

But the diplomats here never had that form. So when they try to leave the country, handing in a form that Ben Affleck’s character stole when he entered Iran, there’s no copy for the customs officer to marry it to. The officials have a look around but don’t find anything. Eventually, though, they give up and the guy gets his passport stamped. Okay, it’s possible that a form can get lost - clerical error and all. But what about the five other diplomats? Won’t the guy notice something fishy when the next person also doesn’t have a customs form copy filed away out back? Apparently not. Not that we get to see the subsequent exchanges, as suddenly the entire group are through passport control and the matter is neatly swept under the rug.

Things get a lot worse, though. Our group reaches their gate at the airport, only to be pulled out of the line by Iranian soldiers. They’re quickly interrogated. Pulses quicken but then one of the diplomats speaks passionately about his fake cover - they’re in Iran to look for locations to make a movie. He shows storyboards and explains the story and Ben Affleck’s heart soars (and presumably the audience as well) as his protege proves himself to be a fabulous actor. Okay, this is very Hollywood, but so what? It works. So the group is let on the plane....only those little hands have finally put the pictures together and a soldier is running through the airport screaming at the top of his lungs to stop the plane. Meanwhile the diplomats are finally sitting down. We’re safe! But they’re not...because the soldiers are ripping through doors, forcing their way through gates and revving up jeeps to intercept the plane that’s sitting on the tarmac ready to take off. Yeah, this makes more sense than radioing air traffic control! And then as the plane receives clearance to take off, they put their foot on the accelerator and try and catch up. Maybe this little jeep can ram this massive jet off the runway! They get closer and closer and beads of sweat are percolating on our concerned brows. The diplomats have no idea of the drama that’s unfolding on the runway but then Ben Affleck looks out of the window and sees the vehicle. Holy flurking schnit! They’re going to get us! All of my effort and all of my labour was for naught!

But then the plane takes off. For a horrible second I thought fighter jets were going to be deployed and angry, bearded Iranians were going to try and intercept the passenger plane while kissing pictures of the Ayatollah. But thankfully this doesn’t happen and the passengers receive notice that they can finally booze it up. We’re out of Iranian air space! Cue hugs galore and sweeping music!

What a load of fucking bullshit. None of this happened. None of it! Oh, the diplomats did board a plane and they did fly out of Iran but that’s about it. They arrived at the airport early in the morning, went through security without any issues and went home. Why the need then for car chases and screaming soldiers and phoney baloney Hollywood bullshit? What, just because this film is also about Hollywood means that it has to have a ridiculous Hollywood ending? Congratulations everyone, you’ve just sullied a perfectly entertaining political thriller.

And it’s a real shame, because there’s a lot to enjoy about this movie. The performances are good, the direction is tight, it’s funny, it’s tense, it has an amazing opening sequence that expertly explains the situation at the time. It’s pretty much everything you need in a thriller. But then I guess because the real life escape was so routine, they felt the need to jazz it up. Okay, I don’t mind a bit of fluffing. But jeeps chasing jet planes? It’s too much. It’s way too much.

Argo fuck yourself. And fuck the Academy as well! Yay, it’s a film about Hollywood saving American diplomats from angry, bearded foreigners! Let me stick my head up my ass and vote for this self-congratulatory nonsense!

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