Always risky to say a movie is a unanimous hit with critics because even as the raves stack up we never know if a writer will come along to undermine a great average. Today with 40 top critics weighed in, it feels safe to name Argo the best rated mainstream movie of 2012. It vaults to the top of the heap with an 87 average. Metacritic rates 13 reviews as perfect scores of 100 and more 3/4 of the reviews rank higher than 80. With no negative reviews whatsoever and only 4 that are somewhat middling, Argo has achieved that rarity of critical consensus — it’s not even polarizing; it’s an undisputed smash. The critics agree with Lou Lumenick: Argo is “a blue-chip Oscar contender.”

Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times

Ben Affleck not only stars in but also directs, and “Argo,” the real movie about the fake movie, is both spellbinding and surprisingly funny. Many of the laughs come from the Hollywood guys played by Goodman and Arkin, although to be sure, as they set up a fake production office and hold meetings poolside at the Beverly Hills Hotel, they aren’t in danger like their “crew members” in Iran…

The craft in this film is rare. It is so easy to manufacture a thriller from chases and gunfire, and so very hard to fine-tune it out of exquisite timing and a plot that’s so clear to us we wonder why it isn’t obvious to the Iranians. After all, who in their right mind would believe a space opera was being filmed in Iran during the hostage crisis? Just about everyone, it turns out. Hooray for Hollywood.

Manohla Dargis, The New York Times

It’s a doozy of a story and so borderline ridiculous that it sounds like something that could have been cooked up only by Hollywood. Ben Affleck, however, who directed “Argo” from a script by Chris Terrio and cast himself in the pivotal role of Tony Mendez, realized that comedy alone wouldn’t do. American lives, after all, were at stake (a situation that contemporary viewers will be all too familiar with), and so, after opening the movie with a bit of history and archival imagery, he rushes into the moment’s jarring, unsettling craziness with a cinematic whoosh…

Better yet, after setting your pulse racing, he smoothly downshifts, easing from the high anxiety of the opener — which evokes 1970s political thrillers like Sydney Pollack’s “Three Days of the Condor” — into something looser, mellower and funny.

Lou Lumenick, New York Post

Ben Affleck’s “Argo’’ offers plenty of nail-biting thrills as well as funnier scenes than you’d ever imagine possible in the grim context of the Iran hostage crisis, which began in 1979…

Affleck aces the tonal shifts so flawlessly that it’s surprising this is only his third movie as a director — if you didn’t know otherwise, you’d swear this was the work of a veteran master like Steven Soderbergh.

Joe Morgenstern, Wall Street Journal

As a filmmaker working on a large canvas in a quasidocumentary style, Mr. Affleck rises to one challenge after another with a sure touch. (And with the help of such collaborators as the cinematographer Rodrigo Prieto, the production designer Sharon Seymour, the editor William Goldenberg, and Alexandre Desplat, who did the original score.)

…Yet it does so with a flair for showmanship. “Argo” is a movie about storytelling that tells its own story briskly and clearly; there’s very little fat on the narrative bones. It’s a movie about movies that savors the medium’s silliness.

…And “Argo” exults in what a movie can do when its story has a compelling core. There’s been no shying away from the joys of expert manipulation, no reluctance to heighten the fact-based drama with fictional inventions. What’s startling is that the invented elements have been done so well. (One tolerable, perhaps inevitable, exception is a moist, uplifting coda.) Without giving any plot points away, I can tell you that a climactic scene turns on a marvelous surprise, and promise you frequent spasms of suspense that will grow almost unbearable. If you’ve forgotten how gratifying a Hollywood studio film can be, this is the best good idea you could ask for.

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  • Tye-Grr

    I can’t wait to see this today. If I didn’t have work this morning at 6am with an hour long commute, I’d have caught the midnight showing last night.

  • phantom

    Excellent news, I was checking the MC score daily and it didn’t start THIS well, it was under 80 for a few days and then BAM, it turned out that the 4 middling reviews came first and then only raves. Even though there are several remarkably promising, unseen contenders still to come, I think this 87 will be hard to top. Critics rarely go all-in for a classical musical (even Chicago had ‘only’ 82); considering its director’s previous film, expectations will be damn high for Zero Dark Thirty and if it can’t reach the masterpiece status ‘The Hurt Locker’ did, critics will be disappointed even if it’s a good/great movie; same goes for ‘The Hobbit’, if it is anything but LOTR-great, it will be considered a disappointment; not to mention, the kind of unanimous praise Argo is getting at the moment, hasn’t gone to a Tarantino film since Pulp Fiction.

    So unless the critics’ groups go for something like ‘Beasts of the Southern Wild’ or ‘The Master’, I could see Argo pulling off a clean sweep. Now I only hope it won’t underperform at the Box Office, it would be a decent OW over 15M, but if with this challenging concept it could exceed 20M, it would be a great triumph and considering the inevitably strong WOM and the fact that it will in cinemas probably for another 4-5 months, 100M could be a real possibility…and if that happens, it will have everything a BP frontrunner could ask for.

  • robert k

    You guys had a midnight showing?! I have to wait until 4:20 pm. Totally jacked.

  • Fivus Viener

    Can’t wait to see it. I knew some of the story from the documentary 444 Days to Freedom that was narrated by Shatner. You guys should check that out too.

  • You guys had a midnight showing? I have to wait until November.

  • unlikely hood

    Following this film on metacritic is like

    Chasin’ All the Argonauts

  • Yogsss

    The film’s opening here on my birthday next week so its probably one of the best gifts one could wish for 😀

    I knew it was going to get good reviews but never expected THIS level of good. I’m so glad for Ben and company. He’s really proving himself as a talented part of Hollywood.

  • Tero Heikkinen

    We already had a couple of screenings for Argo, but I’ve been busy so I missed them. I’ll finally see it next week. It will be a double feature of Argo and then Skyfall.

  • drake

    I saw it and thought it was excellent. I think one reason for the critical consensus though is it is just such an entertaining and un-challenging movie (i don’t mean that as an insult). i think the work of Nolan, Wes and PT Anderson (all also well reviewed) is harder to get a consensus from from the public and critics because of how stylistically challenging (and ambitious) they are. “argo” is a great screenplay and a very fine film. i liked it more than “the artist” for one. its just not a film i can see being on my top 5 at the end of the year.

  • I just got home. I wasn’t in love with it. It was well-made. I’m a fan of Ben’s but I don’t know, I just never locked into it. He looked gorgeous. The whole film did. And the lead “bad guy” at the airport was really handsome too. But that’s all I came away with, a series of images. I never got into the story. I’m wondering if I just woke up weird this morning but I wasn’t engaged and therefore didn’t get that edge of your seat feeling. I never left the theater but I missed stuff. I had to ask my mom about plot points because I just missed them. I had a feeling it wasn’t going to be a favorite of mine this year no matter how well it’s made. I’m just not interested in the subject matter. I’m also wondering if the hype didn’t give me unrealistic expectations. It seemed like a junior varsity version of MUNICH.

    I thought the side by side photos at the end were a great Oscar campaign on its own and I’ll be happy for anything that Ben gets. But I think it’ll be like when Benicio Del Toro won his Oscar. I’m a huge fan of his but not of TRAFFIC. So when he won I was like “Yay… kinda.” I feel like it will be the same with this. But I’m going to not go around saying negative things about it even though I’ve got several movies at this point in the year that I like better. I will watch it again at some point to see if I wasn’t just in a weird mood.

  • Bob Burns

    had it with Anthony Lane. Not renewing the New Yorker

  • Jeremy

    It was pretty good! Affleck’s direction, pacing, editing continues to improve, a nice mix of tension and humor, levity amongst all the seriousness.

    Various others are right in that there isn’t much of an emotional core to Argo. There are no well-developed characters, and Affleck’s Mendez is about as dull as dishwater. There’s some perfunctory attempts to show he’s got a family, aw look at that, but that’s about it. Affleck plays it as straight arrow as possible, carrying a single solemn look on his face for 95% of the movie. It’s a very bland lead performance, and I know a different actor could have shaken it up a bit; somebody a bit more unhinged like Cage or even his brother Casey, inject some fear or excitement into the role. Goodman and Arkin are fun, if not particularly noteworthy performances from either of them(look for John Goodman playing this exact same character in Flight next month!), and Bryan Cranston just does what he’s suppose to. It’s not exactly a very imaginatively cast film, and there’s definitely no intense crackerjack performance like Jeremy Renner in The Town to propel it out of “respectable drama/thriller” territory.

    The airport stuff near the end is really tense, though! Exaggerated because it’s a Hollywood movie, but I’d be lying if I wasn’t biting my nails anyway.

    It’s a good movie. Not as good as Gone Baby Gone, not a great film, DEFINITELY not a Best Picture winner, but it’s a good, solid adult drama from an increasingly impressive director.

    Good job Ben Affleck.

    Now please, stop acting in your movies.

  • Rg

    Just got home from seeing it. It is now my Best Picture FRONTRUNNER toppling Les Miserables,well of course no one has seen that movie yet, and Lincoln. I have Paul Thomas Anderson as my Best Director FRONTRUNNER until seeing Ben Affleck’s Argo, it is a very well directed film. So far, the Oscar race is becoming more interesting,but there are more films that no one has seen yet like: Django Unchained, Les Misersbles etc. Argo for Picture, Director, Supporting Actor for either Cranston or Arkin, Editing, ORIGINAL SCORE, Cinematographt and Sound Editing. I love the Make up and Costume Design too. The last 30 minutes was so intense that got me biting my nails. Lol

  • g

    I’m so happy to finally read these reviews, and the reaction the film is getting. I’m practically in tears, I knew it would do well but I never anticipated this well. God I love this movie! I think it will go down as one of my all time favorites…

  • phantom

    YAY, early word suggests the film will deliver an OW around 22M ( 8ish on Friday), which would be fantastic and considering it will be in cinemas for at least another 3-4 months, well…100M here we come ! It’s always so refreshing to see a quality film doing WELL at the Box Office.

  • Mark F.

    Saw it today. Great film, very well done. Definately will be a big Oscar contender.

  • Tony

    I thought “Argo” was quite good, but I wish that critics and bloggers would tone it down a little. When they go into hyperdrive, few films can meet those expectations. Ben came very close, though.

  • joao

    Typical good screenwriter movie , that plays safe. Nothing extraordinary. Oscar audiences will eat this quite well.

    Simpleton filmmaking at his peak

    Awarded movies should be so much more than this.

  • menyc

    It was fine. Disappointing with all the hype going in. Some fairly cringe-inducing moments attempting to add tension.

  • Mohammed

    Ha! I can already see the backlash this movie is getting from people who’d hoped that Affleck would fall on his face and out of the Oscar race.

    One thing I’d like to know; What is it with this need for style that I keep hearing ? Modern cinema is riddled with music video directors with style pouring from their fingertips ( Snyder).

    Style is nothing without substance, and Affleck is delivering movies with authenticity and a sense of place and underlying tension and menace. What is wrong with that ?

    Also; Affleck is now perhaps the only director of his generation with three movies that are at 94 percent fresh on Rottentomatoes. I call that talent.

  • joao

    Since when is Rottentomatoes any type of certifiably of quality ? The people who are part of it , what the hell did they do do regarding cinema so that their opinion is so highly regarded by you ?

    Argo is not a bad movie. Its simply…there. There’s nothing actually good in it. Its a very safe movie in every single aspect.

    I dont know in what world a group of people can consider this a potential awarded movie , especially with good movies being made , a lot of them outside US.

    But nothing surprises me. In a world where a movie like Kings Speech gets a golden statue , then i honestly feel any movie whatsoever can win the award.

    Argo is like Town , a completely bland movie that is as good as the writer’s words. Gone at least was more compelling.

  • Simpleton filmmaking at his peak

    Awarded movies should be so much more than this.

    That’s kinda what I thought but since everyone else was so crazy for it, I thought it was me. I mean to me GONE BABY GONE and THE TOWN were so so much better than this. I still won’t begrudge him any awards, I’ll just most likely want something else to win. I’d already put TDKR, LOOPER, SAVAGES, and LAWLESS above this in terms of quality and I still have so much to see.

  • Mohammed

    The reason Rottentomatoes and Metacritic scores should be noted is to gauge a movies quality. If not then why not just call Atlas Shrugged Part 2 an Oscar frontrunner ? One have to be deep into the so-called art-house movies with 15 reviews that no one has heard about to dismiss Argo. Not that I’m against those smaller films, but come on.

    Argo is more critically praised than all the mainstream films that have come out this year. This includes TDKR and LOOPER. To bring up SAVAFES and Lawless is a bit of an insult.

    Regarding style/blandness: Please. Malick is the one and only one who is painting outside the box. Everyone else is coloring their picture in the square. I don’t consider The Godfather a classic because of style, but because it’s a GREAT story told WELL! Style can change over time. GREAT stories will be remembered for a long time.

    Also, The Kings Speech had heart. That’s why it won over The Social Network; a story about rich jerks being jerky.

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