Film Review: ARGO

Directed by Ben Affleck
Written by Chris Terrio from the Master of Disguise (Mendez) and a Wired Magazine article, “The Great Escape” by Joshua Bearman
Starring Ben Affleck, John Goodman, Bryan Cranston, Alan Arkin, Victor Garber

I am certain there is someone out there who did not find ARGO a serious contender for the best picture of the year, but it isn’t me. Seldom have two hours wheeled by so quickly.

PLOT: During the Iranian hostage crisis of 1979, six U.S. Embassy officials escaped to the Canadian Embassy. Of course, escaping from the Canadian Embassy proves even more daunting as the Iranians look for them, going so far as to retrieve shredded paper to assist them. The Canadians cannot admit the missing hostages are inside their compound without losing their diplomatic status in Iran.

Tony Mendez (Affleck) is a C.I.A agent handed the assignment of extricating them. While watching an old movie, he comes up with the scheme of removing the six officials under the pretense they are a film crew scouting locations. Lester Siegel (Arkin) and John Chambers (Goodman) play a Hollywood producer and makeup artist who commission the bogus script (ARGO), pay for storyboards to convince Iranian officials, and eventually pay for an ad. They also provide the lighter moments.

ARGO is an impressive film on many levels. Affleck films Iranian street scenes expertly. He has a great intuition for when a bit of comic relief (from Arkin and Goodman) will leaven the tension without undermining it. He tells the story lucidly but without the excessive exposition that hampers many films like this one. He gets great acting from all of his actors, even the ones who only need to look scared.

I have no doubt, Affleck heightened our anxiety by exaggerating timing issues. But by all accounts, the story is mostly true. This was a terrific movie. Affleck has moved miles beyond our initial impression of him. Highly recommended.

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