I saw Argo when it came out, one of four Best Picture nominated films I’ve seen so far. I thought it was excellent in part because it was tense and realistic but not deadly serious in the way most Oscar nominated films tend to be. Argo is fun. I was rooting for it to win last night.
Despite it being based on real, very political events it does a good job not weighing the story down with too much political baggage. This isn’t a top-down story, it’s a bottom up one. Yes, there is a voice over by Jimmy Carter during the credits, but it’s really the first time Carter intrudes on the film.
Argo [spoilers ahead] presents CIA agent Tony Menendez as a man struggling to overcome politicians afraid to take political risks. The film’s climax revolves around Menendez’ decision to continue his mission after being told to abandon it because the White House has decided on another approach. (The new approach involves a helicopter raid to rescue hostages. You may recall how that worked out.) Menendez refuses to abandon the six trapped Americans and forces the hand of his CIA superiors. They in turn force the hand of Carter, who signs off on the mission off-screen at the last possible moment. At its core, Argo is about a brave man who risks his life to outsmart
the Iranian government and resistance from within the United States government.
So I found it a little ironic that the First Lady handed out the award last night, a politically-tinged moment of praise for a story that repeatedly questions the wisdom of politicians. Having the First Lady announce the award from the White House was perfect in a way, though not the way I suspect it was intended to be.