Argo (2012) Directed by Ben Affleck. Starring: Ben Affleck, Bryan Cranston, and John Goodman. IMDB says: ”As the Iranian revolution reaches a boiling point, a CIA ‘exfiltration’ specialist concocts a risky plan to free six Americans who have found shelter at the home of the Canadian ambassador.”
The beginning of Argo features an animated sequence giving the viewer a brief history lesson leading up to the Iran hostage crisis. It’s not only visually interesting and unique, but it brings the viewer right into that moment in time, setting the tone which proved to be relentless. During the Iranian Revolution, caused in great part by American interference in Iran’s politics, the American Embassy was overtaken in Tehran. Argo focuses on a group of 6 Americans who were able to escape the building and took shelter in the Canadian ambassador’s home. Tony Mendez, a CIA agent who specialized in exfiltration, came up with the hair-brained idea to use the ruse of a science fiction film crew scouting for locations in the Middle East to sneak the 6 hideaways out of Tehran. It just happened to work, and so we get this taut, superbly interesting film based on the declassified story.
Once again, Ben Affleck shows that he’s not only proficient but excellent behind the camera. The direction makes the film’s tension incredibly palpable. From the opening sequence to the down to the wire finale in the last 20 minutes I was completely wound up and tense as I took in this thrilling film. It’s not just the dramatic story you’re getting here though, because there’s a good dose of humor from John Goodman and Alan Arkin’s characters. Not only was this exfiltration a huge cooperation between the CIA and Canadian government, but Hollywood was greatly involved in its success. Goodman plays the make-up artist John Chambers (Planet of the Apes) and Arkin plays the fictional director Lester Seigel who aid Mendez in the cover up story. They are a hilarious duo on screen and help to lighten up the mostly serious story.
This leads up to the other insanely successful aspect of the film – the great and quite large cast. You have Bryan Cranston as Mendez’s superior in the CIA and Kyle Chandler playing real life Chief of Staff Hamilton Jordan making welcome appearances. The six actors who play the refugees look the part and provide convincing portrayals. Victor Garber gives a subtly important performance as the pivotal Canadian Ambassador Ken Taylor. It’s a host of people to keep track of but they all have adequate screen time and enough presence to be distinguishable characters. Ben Affleck does his acting job well but not too remarkably (it would be a shocker if it garners any awards attention) but his casting is certainly questionable considering he should be played by someone of Mendez’s actual race.
The ending of this film features maybe a little too much movie magic in showing the last moments before Mendez and the refugees finish their escape, but it’s all entertaining. This is an all around great film that excels across the board. It’s certainly one of the most tense pieces of filmmaking I’ve seen and is a worthy adaptation of the bizarre, true story. There’s tons to enjoy in it and yet another outstanding notch on Affleck’s directing belt.
Argo opens in theaters nationwide on October 12.