Scott Marks 3:01 p.m., Dec. 12
Oscar-bound dramatization of the far-fetched but true story of six Americans who managed to escape the Iran hostage crisis in 1979 and find shelter in Canada by pretending to be actors in a big budget Hollywood space opera. Ben Affleck directs and stars as the CIA “exfiltration” expert who comes up with the outlandish idea of hiring a once-big producer (don’t laugh when you see the poster on Alan Arkin’s wall) and makeup man (John Goodman) to give credence to the bogus project. The behind-the-scenes exposé of Uncle Sam-as-auteur accounts for half a great movie. Even if you are not familiar with the incident - the information was eventually declassified in 1997 - the ending is pretty much a foregone conclusion. Affleck needed a stylish touch of sleight of hand to sustain the suspense required to elevate the third act above a typical Bourne sequel. It also suffers a bit from the cutes, as evidenced by Alexandre Desplat’s syrupy score and one “Argo ‘f’ yourself” too many. The cast helps to keep things moving - particularly the hilarious interplay between Arkin and Goodman. And is it me, or should Bryan Cranston be in every film released? Worth seeing, but nowhere near the movie people are going to tell you it is. Make sure not to leave before the obligatory closing credit sequence where they show what the real victims looked like. They got the hair right! With Victor Garber, Clea DuVall, Rory Cochrane, and Zeljko Ivanek. 2012.
— Scott Marks