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.