The idea that Ben Affleck's "Argo" could be one of the biggest Oscar contenders of the year should come as little surprise -- and not just because of that gangbusters trailer or Affleck's growing pedigree as a director. Just look at how Warner Bros. handled the release of the thriller, a true story about how the CIA smuggled six Americans out of Iran under the cover of a Hollywood film production during the hostage crisis.
First, the studio moved "Argo" from its Sept. 14 release date to the more awards-friendly Oct. 12 calendar slot. Then, Warner Bros. moved its two other potential Oscar-contending dramas, "Gangster Squad" and "The Great Gatsby," into next year. Both shifts were done because of extenuating circumstances -- reshoots stemming from the Aurora murders for "Gangster Squad"; additional effects work and soundtrack production for "The Great Gatsby" -- but if Warner Bros. wasn't so high on "Argo," would either have happened so easily?
At this point, it's academic: "Argo" premiered at the prestigious Telluride Film Festival on Friday, and the reviews were rapturous.
"'Argo' is a crackerjack political thriller told with intelligence, great period detail and a surprising amount of nutty humor for a serious look at the Iran hostage crisis of 1979-81," wrote Todd McCarthy on THR.com. "From all points of view, this is one the major releases of the fall season."
His colleague, Oscar expert Scott Feinberg echoed that sentiment.
"[T]he audience gave a rousing ovation to the movie, which appears to me to be a very solid contender to score a best picture Oscar nomination," he wrote.
Rodrigo Perez, writing for the Indiewire blog The Playlist, compared Affleck's work on "Argo" to famed directors Alan J. Pakula and Sydney Pollack, and noted that the sprawling cast is one of the film's big strengths.
'"Argo' practically bursts at the seams, but each great character actor has their place, serving a complex and ambitious narrative that expertly juggles political intrigue, tense emotional stakes and Hollywood glitter, resulting in an absorbing and engrossing picture."
Affleck stars in the film, alongside Alan Arkin, John Goodman, Bryan Cranston, Chris Messina, Scoot McNairy, Kyle Chandler, Rory Cochrane, Tate Donovan and Richard Kind among others.
For more thoughts on the film, check out the slideshow of reactions below. "Argo" screens at the Toronto Film Festival next week; it hits theaters on Oct. 12.