Review of Argo


Movie Review: Argo

-- Rating: R
Length: 120 minutes
Release Date: October 12, 2012
Directed by: Ben Affleck
Genre: Biography, Drama, and Thriller

"Argo" tells the true story of the daring extraction of American hostages from Iran in the late 1970s. Starring Ben Affleck, Bryan Cranston, and John Goodman, the movie tells an outrageous tale that, if it were fictitious, would be too absurd to find success on the big screen. As it is, however, the movie is an engaging, nail-biting thriller that is certain to stay with viewers long after the closing sequence.

The story opens in Iran in 1979 in the thick of the Iranian Revolution. Angry protestors have taken to the streets of Tehran, causing mayhem and violence wherever they go. A large crowd invades the United States Embassy, taking everyone hostage and threatening unspeakable violence. In the chaos, six Americans manage to escape from the embassy and make their way to the home of the Canadian ambassador, Ken Taylor (Victor Garber). Trapped in his house for months, they dare not step outside for fear of capture.

Back in the United States, the CIA is on the case. When the extraction team can't figure out a way to rescue the stranded Americans, agent Tony Mendez (Ben Affleck) has a far-fetched idea: he will pose as a filmmaker from Canada who is considering Tehran as the location for a new film entitled "Argo." Prepared with false Canadian documents, he will attempt to pass off the six fugitives as his film crew and smuggle them out of the country, right under the noses of the angry government officials.

With the help of a team that includes CIA agents and Hollywood movie professionals, Tony develops the fake film idea and gathers enough intelligence to turn it into a believable project. Armed with his wits and an outrageous back-story, he heads to Tehran to begin the project. As the film progresses, Tony and the desperate American escapees navigate the tense environment of the chaotic Iranian city. With plenty of thrills and close escapes, the movie keeps viewers enthralled to the closing credits.

Ben Affleck shines both on- and off-screen in "Argo." As a director, he captures just the right timing, ensuring that scenes flow quickly without losing viewers. In combination with the high-stakes story, the rapid pace keeps viewers on the edges of their seats, wondering what will happen next. On screen, Affleck is engaging and intelligent, proving his skill as an actor and reminding audiences of his successful debut in "Good Will Hunting." The actor's fans may be initially put off by his 1970s-style haircut and beard, but Affleck uses the role to showcase his abilities rather than his physical appearance. As an actor and a director, "Argo" demonstrates Affleck's growing abilities and evolving viewpoint.

"Argo" is a masterpiece of research and storytelling. While many films based on historic incidents are dry or over-dramatized, "Argo" maintains a sense of reality. To remind viewers that they are watching a true story, Affleck inserted actual footage that was shot in Iran during the hostage crisis. Rather than disrupt the plot or pull viewers from the story, the footage serves to increase the feeling of urgency and bring the plight of the characters into sharp focus. The filmmakers stayed close to reality and paid attention to detail, giving the film a realistic, believable feeling. In an admirable display of respect, Affleck and writer Chris Terrio manage to expose the well-intentioned motivations of the United States, Canada, and Iran. Although Canada's role in the project was minimized in the movie, the nation receives a warm cinematic treatment that is sure to please Canadian viewers.

The supporting cast members in "Argo" give masterful performances. As a U.S.-based CIA manager, Bryan Cranston is believable and unexpectedly entertaining. John Goodman and Alan Arkin are hilarious as the Hollywood movie professionals helping the CIA pull off a fake production. Both actors are at the top of their acting games and provide much-needed laughs after the tense scenes in Iran. Although Arkin's character did not exist in real life-he is a creation of screenwriter Chris Terrio-he fits seamlessly into the story.

For viewers who are looking for a smart, witty, and suspenseful movie, "Argo" fits the bill. Affleck and Terrio have created the ideal blend of thrills, comedy, and fact, resulting in a movie that will entertain and educate audience members. Although it is not appropriate for children, it is a remarkably appealing film that is certain to delight older viewers whether or not they are fans of political dramas.

Rating: 4 out of 5