Brow Beat

Trailer Critic: Ben Affleck’s Argo

John Goodman plays John Chambers in Argo.

Still from the trailer for Argo.

The trailer for Ben Affleck’s Argo has just about everything you could ask for: A true-life spy story born of Hollywood and Middle Eastern conflict, a great cast, even better spectacles. That cast includes Affleck, Bryan Cranston, Alan Arkin, John Goodman, and terrific character actors like Richard Kind and Philip Baker Hall, and the eyeglasses, well—you’ll just have to see those for yourself:

I’ve written before about the cinematic power of great 1970s period eyewear, fully on display here. But the most intriguing aspect of Argo is the bizarre true story it’s based on. Adapted from Joshuah Bearman’s 2007 Wired article, Argo depicts how the Central Intelligence Agency invented a fake science-fiction flick to rescue six Americans from Iran. That sci-fi flick was called Argo, and the fake production was convincing enough that it got written up in Variety and The Hollywood Reporter—here’s the fake movie’s very real poster.

Affleck, who also directs, stars as Tony Mendez, the CIA operative who masterminded the plan. The real-life Mendez assumed the made-up identity of Kevin Costa Harkins, an Irish film producer who recruited John Chambers (played here by John Goodman), a makeup artist who worked on Star Trek and won a special Oscar for Planet of the Apes, to help set up their phony Hollywood production company (“Studio Six Productions,” named after the six endangered Americans).

Argo is Affleck’s third feature after Gone Baby Gone and The Town—neither a masterpiece, but both solid genre pictures infused with wit, moral complexity, and a sense of place. Here he brings the bushy beard last seen at the end of The Town along with some Scorsese-style rapid dolly-in and tracking shots courtesy of cinematographer—and longtime Alejandro González Iñárritu collaborator—Rodrigo Prieto.

The trailer’s editing is as stylish as its eyeglasses and moustaches—with just one off-note. While the ’70s-funk bass early on signals that the movie is both a period drama and a sort of Ocean’s Eleven-style caper, the subsequent use of “Dream On” feels like a bit much. The titles, though, are a clever touch: Presented in the style of shredded documents, they emphasize how the specifics of the story were long classified, with the smudges of ink one last period detail.

Grade: B+

Previously from the Trailer Critic
Ferrell vs. Galifianakis in The Campaign
Beasts of the Southern Wild
The Dark Knight Rises
John Hillcoat’s Lawless
Judd Apatow’s This Is 40
Woody Allen’s To Rome with Love
Tim Burton’s Dark Shadows
On the Road
Steven Soderbergh’s Magic Mike