Argo is an ensemble piece. Affleck is undoubtedly the star and his character is the hero, but although it’s a star’s part, it requires him not to do a star turn. The job he’s given himself is to be the calm center around which the craziness swirls. He builds a sheltered space where we can stand with him and watch and think along with him. In fact, much of his performance is watching and thinking. The showier work is left to others, with Goodman and Arkin getting the best of it and having the most obvious fun.
As Chambers and Siegel, they make a dueling but amusingly complementary pair of cynics. Different types of cynics. Chambers is the good-natured, forgiving type, amused by other people’s foolishness but grateful for it because it allows him to lead his two lives as artist and spy. Goodman plays him with an almost permanent grin as if he’s on the brink of bursting into a hearty laugh that will give away the whole game. Siegel is a cynic of the self-loathing kind whose disdain for humanity in general begins with disdain for himself in particular. Siegel has himself convinced that he’s not doing anything worthwhile with his life. It’s a feeling leftover from his glory days an intelligence officer in World War II. Making movies, even award-winning ones, just doesn’t compare to fighting Nazis. But like most movie cynics he’s a closet romantic and an idealist and, while profanely and grumpily expressing reluctance, he jumps at the chance to get back to meaningful work. Since he’s played by Alan Arkin, however, he’s even grumpier and more profane in his idealism than in his cynicism.---from my review of Argo, The best bad idea we have.