If you haven’t seen Argo yet, you are missing one of the most riveting and compelling movies of 2012. Starring and directed by Ben Affleck, the movie delivers an arresting portrayal of six Americans trying to escape Iran in 1979. Argo is easily one of the most dramatic of last year’s crop which is a testament to the script and cast considering sex, drugs and gratuitous violence are virtually absent from the film.
Argo tells the story of the takeover of the American embassy in Iran in 1979. Iranian revolutionaries storm the embassy and in the chaos six Americans escape. After fleeing, the six Americans take refuge in the Canadian embassy and the C.I.A. is charged with smuggling the group out of the country. The C.I.A. point man assigned to lead the epic extraction is Tony Mendez, played by Affleck. Before heading to Iran, Mendez concocts a wild idea to produce a bogus Canadian movie.
With the help of producer Lester Siegel (played by Alan Arkin) and make-up artist John Chambers (played by John Goodman), Mendez develops a believable Hollywood front for a Canadian sci-fi film and production crew. However, not only does Mendez have to convince the Iranians that the movie he will go to Iran to scout filming locations for is real, but he has to convince the entire world.
Mendez travels to Iran posing as the associate producer in an attempt to pull off the courageous ruse. Mendez enters Iran essentially powerless, except for the six Canadian passports he’s carrying. The plan is to meet the Americans at the Canadian embassy, train them to memorize assumed identities, and then travel around Tehran looking at filming locations.
As the director, Affleck does a magnificent job dusting off the history books and animating one of America’s tensest moments of history. Throughout Argo there is a constant sense of dangling off a precipitous cliff ledge by your fingertips. When Mendez is leading the group through the market in Tehran, a member of the group draws unwanted attention for taking pictures. You feel like the tension is about to blow the lid off a pressure cooker. Argo ebbs and flows like this for its duration, with surprisingly humorous quips furnished in between by Goodman and Arkin. One particularly funny line evolves that has them saying “Argo f— yourself.” The delicate balance between high drama and comedy demonstrates Affleck’s sublime choreography and mastery of cinematic finesse.
Argo also benefits from Affleck’s portrayal of the hero, Mendez. In Mendez, Affleck aptly recreates the 70s feel, with the beard, clothes and manic enthusiasm to produce the next sci-fi hit on the heels of StarWars. Yet the period feel of the movie doesn’t detract at all from Mendez. He comes off as an incredibly sympathetic, blue collar hero, all along carrying a sense of urgency tempered by unwavering faith in the extraction to succeed. It’s no coincidence that Affleck looks back to this period to help shed light on today’s political challenges facing America. America’s current political climate might just be easily described as having urgency. Washington D.C. feels the urgency to produce winning outcomes in our military forays that by most outward appearances look doomed to fail. Regardless of today’s outcomes, Affleck puts the origins of our contemporary conflicts on full display, much like Mendez does with the storyboards at the airport.
As the enormity of the caper becomes almost too much to bear, the only thing standing between the group and freedom is the Revolutionary Guard at the Tehran airport. The astounding amount of temerity Mendez must have had begins to grip you, as you soon find yourself hanging onto every last word as if your life depends on it.The group is on the verge of boarding the plane, when the guards sense something that’s awry. The quick acting Mendez immediately improvises by pulling out Argo storyboards and describing flying saucer scenes to the movie buffs moonlighting as guards. The guards flash a moment of weakness and Mendez exploits it to the relief of the group, as well as viewers of the movie. The shallow, rapid breathing finally gets a break.
Affleck commands a career defining performance throughout. He makes up for any number of lackluster projects that he chose to star in over recent years. Argo will be sure to reignite Affleck’s star and popularity, and help him to reclaim significance as a leading actor again. Part Hollywood satire and part political commentary, Affleck pitches a perfect game in Argo, making it one of the best thrillers produced in recent years. Unfortunately, he’s won every award under the sun for his performance, except the one that matters most- an Oscar nomination. This shouldn’t dampen your willingness to see Argo however. You’ll learn about an extremely tense moment of American history that more and more is becoming a faded memory; a memory that Affleck and cast bring to life with startling and engrossing effect.
Author Bio: Jason Thomas is author and Brand Manager for UglyCable.com.au, Australia’s leading source for speaker cable.