Why do cinemas lie about the start times of films?
I went along to see Argo today (two films in under a week…I might actually get value for money off my Unlimited Card at this rate) and it was advertised as starting at 3pm.
Now fair enough, we all know that films never start when they say they will, but it used to be that there were maybe five or ten minutes of adverts & trailers (or as we call it in our social circle “The Crap”) and then it would start, and that was fine.
But now it’s getting worse. Learning my lesson from last week – where I was 20 minutes late and the 15 minutes of trailers hadn’t even started yet – I decided to leave my house at 3:15, getting there at 3:30 and by that point the film still hadn’t started.
It really is taking the piss.
But anyway, back to the matter at hand; Argo.
What’s It About?
Based on the true story of the C.I.A’s operation to rescue six US diplomats hiding out in the Canadian Ambassador’s during the Iranian Hostage Crisis of 1979-81. Ben Affleck’s character Tony Mendez enters Iran under the pretence of being a Canadian film maker scouting for locations to film a science fiction film called Argo.
The plan is that once he’s in he can get the diplomats out of Iran by giving them false identities as members of the film crew, but to authenticate the whole operation, they have to convince Hollywood that the film is real.
Thoughts – The Importance of Authenticity
If you read my Doctor Who reviews, you’ll notice that one thing I highlight regularly is the importance of authenticity.
I think that if you can believe in what you’re seeing on-screen, then you can enjoy it more, and that can come in many ways. Within the context of Dr Who, authenticity can’t come from the plots when there are aliens involved, but it can come from how it looks. A story like Talons of Weng Chiang looked great in that it was set in the Victorian Era and the BBC had all the right costumes and settings to do it right.
Another way of being authentic is if you’re watching something that is based upon a true story. If you know it actually happened then you can believe in it more.
And where Argo works so well is that it combined both.
What happens in the film – creative allowances aside – happened in reality, and moreover, it looks great. Everything about it looks like it is from the 1980s, from the costumes and hairdos through to the location filming and use of genuine news footage from the era.
Even the little things are done well. From the moment the film begins it starts with the Warner Brothers logo of the 1970s, and the credits use the dated font style you were used to seeing in films from that era. It’s authentic and therefore you can invest in it more; or at least I can.
If I was going to nit-pick, I would say that the one thing they get wrong is the condition of the Hollywood logo. In the film, the big sign in the hills is shown as falling apart and in great need of repair. It interested me as I didn’t know it had deteriorated so badly, so I looked it up, and it turns out it was refurbished in 1978. A small blot on the copy-book there then.
For a fan of US Television drama, the casting of Argo is a treat.
It reads like a whose who of recognisable TV actors over the last few years. There’s Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad), Victor Garber (Alias), John Goodman (West Wing, Community), Kyle Chandler (Friday Night Lights), Tate Donovan (The O.C.), Chris Messina (The Newsroom) and Bob Gunton (24) to name but a few, and they are joined by lead actor Ben Affleck and the always good Alan Arkin.
So really, this would struggle not to be at least good based on the people involved.
Authenticity and casting can only go so far. If the script was rubbish or it went on too long the overall standard would suffer.
But I’m happy to report the film flowed well and it easily passed by ‘Clock Check’ (if I find myself routinely looking at my watch during a film I know it’s a struggle).
It also did something amazing…
Even though this is based on a true story where the ending is known, and even though the film was clearly coming to its conclusion, Argo managed to toy with my emotions. The last 30 minutes were an incredibly tense watch. I mean, I doubt I’m massively spoiling it to say that the diplomats managed to escape -they wouldn’t have made a film if the Iranians had won in the end – and yet, against my better judgement, I was sitting there thinking ‘Christ, will they manage to get out?’.
To me, that’s a triumph of writing, acting and direction and is a true example of cinema at it’s finest.
So this is a film that is well written and performed, looks great, feels real and still manages to toy with your emotions. You can’t say better than that!
I really enjoyed Argo, and reading back through the films I’ve seen at the cinema throughout 2012, I would say it is well worthy of being deemed the best I’ve seen this year.