The third film in Ben Affleck’s impressive catalogue, Argo is a well-made period piece drama. Set during the late 70s, Argo centers on the Iranian hostage situation that dragged on for over a year. Containing an excellent cast and a promising director, Argo is worth the price of admission even if it never commits to its characters. Chugging along on a lighting fast pace, Argo tells its story as if it is running for its life. This makes for a very entertaining cinematic experience while also feeling like a hollow one. There is very little connection to the main characters as the movie moves toward a rousing and yet unattached climax. The movie gets torn between its two halves, which is a story of a fake movie, and a hostage film. Argo works best when it delves into the historic elements of the Iranian hostage situation. Affleck does a great job in providing great historical insight into an event that very few people know about (not the Iranian hostage as a whole but a certain element of it). True-life stories have the responsibility of retelling events in a realistic fashion and Affleck is up for the task. Argo may have needed a longer running time and more character development but this movie was made for history classes and in that way it is a triumph.
Ben Affleck has become something more than just a punch line and something less than a great filmmaker. Argo marks his third solid yet flawed film. I realize though that I stand in the very small minority on this one.
A lot more than just your average buddy cop film, End of Watch is a brutal look at life as a law enforcer. Spending most of its time in-between intense realism and fantastical gang violence, End of Watch works in its own reality. Even though it is sometimes too cinematic, it is hard to not feel shaken by what you see on screen. The movie probably only works because of two things and that is the excellent direction by David Ayer and the fantastic performances of the two leads. Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Pena are excellent as two loyal yet unpredictable cops. They serve to keep the laws that we as humans have set up while also towing the line between it for the lives of those they protect. They get in way over their heads but it is hard to fault them as the movie goes down some very dark and twisted paths. They give the movie a very human element as they risk all they have and all they will have for people they don’t know. Ayer does get a little too caught up in the combination of found footage and a third person narrative but that is only a small grumble for a movie that hits hard when violence intrudes on the lives of others.
End of Watch is both an enjoyable experience and a dreadful one. The violence is shocking and brutal instead of stylized which makes it hard to bare when violence rears its ugly head on screen. The ending also left me with unsettled feelings. At first I hated it because it didn’t feel like the good guys fully won but that is a naïve impression. It is one I admire now because of its brave look at how little we can do when faced with such horrifying and uncontrollable circumstances. Lets just hope that there are always brave men to stand in the way of evil so few can comprehend.