Time magazine says Ben Affleck wants to make “serious movies for serious people,” by which, if we can judge by 2010’s The Town and this year’s Argo, he means movies of the old genre type, especially semi-documentaries and films noir, featuring straightforward storytelling without a lot of emphasis on internal action and flashbacks, clear and relatively simple plot lines but a lot of suspense, characters that do not need a lot of introspection but do behave in understandable ways for understandable reasons, and in general a clear resemblance to the world we live in or at least can believe other people do. Time says this is risky stuff, box office-wise, and I don’t know that Argo is going to be the big hit it deserves to be. It’s produced by George Clooney’s company, which seems to agree with Affleck’s ambitions.
Argo is an international intrigue movie with no big orange explosions, no super-villains contemplating the conquest of the world, no spectacular specials effects.
What it has instead is a supposedly true story of an almost comic book rescue of six Americans trapped in the Swiss embassy in Iran in 1979 by pawning them off as an advance scouting committee for a rip-off Star Wars clone movie. There was reportedly a good deal of satire on Hollywood in the original screenplay, as well as a subplot about Ben Affleck’s character’s domestic life, but Affleck cut the picture down to the main story as it actually happened, with a lot of suspense but little violence except repeated footage of Iranian lynch mob street violence, and increasing emphasis on the fact that the Iranians are suspicious and getting closer and closer to the truth.
That’s more than enough for me; I hope it’s enough for current audiences.