Capturing Tension & Movement in Argo


Through character-driven compliance, director Ben Affleck embarks elements of intensity and tension into his film, Argo. In dedication to keeping the audience engaged, Affleck adapts a modern approach to the classic Hollywood system and uses invisible style in the film. Thus, in accordance to implementing social problem solving in what might seem like a hopeless narrative outcome—Affleck searches for it through linear narratives. An implementation of parallel editing and shot linkages is cohesive to the film’s overall structure to unfold a clear resolution to the intense complications throughout.

In one of Argo’s opening shots, a close up of an Iranian protester waves a burning U.S. flag, which gradually zooms back to a medium shot, and finally a full shot. The emphasis of implementing a handheld shot plays a key role in a series of shots throughout the sequence. For example, in another cut the camera pans down to a crowd of protesters and while still in the handheld shot, the audience sees through the perspective of one of the Iranian protestors via POV shot. The camera and cuts are both quick and unsteady, which emphasizes anger and chaos among the crowds. Quick glimpses of Iranians such as a close up of a woman captures the confusion in which the chaos has evoked. The next cut, in a long take the camera starts at a high angle of crowds, but gradually moves upward utilizing a smooth track shot towards the left of the frame near the U.S. Embassy. Inside the Embassy, a medium shot of a frantic woman gazes out a window, which illuminates a high key lighting technique as she oversees the chaos. The handheld camera shot technique is still intact here. In the next quick cut, the camera centers on a close up of a man’s eye as he too is observing the gate barricade displayed in a planimetric frame. This cut uses eyeline matching and is followed by another, in which a cut of a pilot in a helicopter gazes out a window. The camera cuts to a high angle shot of the Embassy, which zooms via overhead shot inward towards the pilot.

Throughout the course of the opening sequence is another set of shots, which makes great use of parallel editing. For example, there is tension in the protest crowds as we cut to the Embassy employees, the Iranians in the Embassy who are secretly trying to get a visa to the United States, the military, and security personnel. In one cut, from a low angle the camera aims at a guard atop a watchtower within the Embassy overlooking the crowds. High key lighting illuminates the shot as a sunset glow rests at the right of the frame. A security camera is elevated atop the watchtower—probably acting as the overseer of high angle shots witnessed in early cuts of the sequence. For example, the crowd montages all utilize the handheld camera technique and might serve as a POV of the security cameras on watchtowers. Clearly, the Embassy is outnumbered by Iranian protesters and the fear among the U.S. employees is evident.

In a medium shot inside the Embassy, Lee Schatz frantically gives update status on security back up. Through the use of eyeline matching, nervous employees in the office are engaged silently with the bad news. A quick cut to a man on a phone hesitant to continue his phone conversation—likely a failed attempt to find solutions, watches Schatz run off. This quick series of cuts foreshadows the Iranian protesters’ break-in victory. Then, another shot takes the viewer to a camera monitor room with security lacking strategies, which only adds to the tension. A quick close up cut to a typewriter replaces or acts as a heartbeat while indicating tangible and important documents reside in the Embassy. In the next cut, a close up of a man screaming “BURN IT…BURN EVERYTHING!” links to the burning U.S. flag in opening scene as indication of foreshadowed victory on the Iranians end.

Argo keeps the audience engaged with unfolding the narrative slowly, but maybe giving the viewers indication of hope, despite being evident or quick to provide a positive solution to the problem at hand. Ben Affleck uses character driven compliance via Tony Mendez and supporting cast, but overshadows a complete resolution with intense scenes of tension and sometimes induced terror. What appears to be hopeless in terms of a proper solution to the problem is later accompanied with a linear narrative structure that slowly finds the solution.


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