If it wasn’t a true story you wouldn’t believe it. The idea is so preposterous that there would be no way that this could be approved by the US government. Our history has shown that our government is capable of some really bizarre tactics – not to mention extremely stupid at times – but this is entirely different. That’s more or less the feeling you get when you first hear about the events that take place in Ben Affleck’s new film Argo. A film that is so reviteting and yet so outlandish in theory, that if it wasn’t such an incredible true story you may not even believe it.
Ben Affleck plays CIA specialist Tony Mendez. Working with a team of government officials that includes the incomparable Bryan Cranston, is assigned the task to devise a plan to free six Americans from Iran after the group was forced into hiding stemming from a siege on the American embassy. Tension against the US has mounted to an all time high after the Iranian people found out that the US government is keeping safe the country’s tyrannical ruler. A late night watching of a Planet of the Apes sequel with his son sparks an idea in Mendez’s head to enter Iran as a fake movie crew in order to retrieve the men and women now hiding in the home of the Canadian ambassador. What follows is an eccentric journey through the Hollywood system to create a fake sci-fi flick called Argo; which will hopefully lead to the safe passage of those stuck in Iran.
Argo marks the third feature length film from director Ben Affleck. Just as his previous two films were saturated with seedy details of the Boston underground, that same attention to the sets, costumes, and atmosphere is applied here to rebuilding the world of 1979. Affleck is turning into one of the most hyped and watched directors after only three mesmerizing features. Argo shows that Affleck knows how to balance the tension in some pivotal scenes and then just as quickly inject some entertaining scenes of comedy and nostalgia. In fact, the majority of the film is more of a comedic character study which is bookended by an exhilarating opening and closing. Alan Arkin, playing an old Hollywood curmudgeon, and John Goodman, as his sarcastic sidekick, own these scenes that make up the better half of the film. Their devising of the fake movie plan almost recalls the fun of the first Ocean’s Eleven film. Subsequently, George Clooney – who starred in that film – serves as the producer here on this film.
Argo kicks off with an overly long information dump recounting the reasoning behind the US’s involvement in Iran and how we got into this mess in the first place. If it wasn’t bad enough that the sequence could have been trimmed down significantly, insult is added to injury through the use of a gimmicky “storyboard” aesthetic to lay out this history that felt like it was trivializing the harsh reality of the situation instead of connecting it to the film. Thankfully the film redeems itself right after through a captivating and tense sequence showing the Iranians slowly penetrating the American embassy and the workers scrambling to burn and destroy valuable documents. We get a peak at times through the character of Bryan Cranston of the US goverment’s view of the events, but outside of that the film oddly ignores any real details of the politics of the situation. I understand that that may not be the film that Affleck wanted to make, but I still would have liked a little more insight into what was behind the curtain on the government side of the story. Plus, more Bryan Cranston is never a bad thing. As a result, I felt the film didn’t carry as much weight or make as much of an impact on me other than feeling like . . . well . . a feel-good movie.
Overall, I enjoyed Argo quite a bit. It’s easily one of the best films of the year with much of the Oscar buzz behind the film well deserved. The old-school Warner Bos. logo at the beginning of the film gives you an idea that you’re in for an old-school type of movie that could have been made in Hollywood in the 70′s. Just keep in mind that it may not carry as much weight as All the President’s Men or other such famous 70′s political thrillers.