Review: Argo

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PLOT: In 1979 during the Iranian Revolution, the American Embassy was taken over and several American citizens were taken hostage. However six US diplomats were able to leave unharmed and were finally able to take refuge with the Canadian Ambassador to Iran. In an effort to get them safely out of the country, a CIA tech op devises a scheme to fly them out from the airport under the guise of a film crew… only time is not on their side.

REVIEW: The idea of a CIA technical operations officer posing as a Hollywood player to try and help six Americans escape during the Iran hostage crisis is far-fetched to say the least. Yet it happened. As dangerous as it was, in 1979 Tony Mendez went into Iran during these tumultuous times and attempted the impossible. This is a story that sounds almost too crazy for Hollywood, perhaps that is why it is one of the best and enthralling movies of 2012. This is real drama.

In the opening sequence of the new Ben Affleck directed ARGO we witness the hostile takeover of the American Embassy in Tahran. It is a detailed recreation of a terrifying time in American history as Islamist militants took 52 Americans hostage in support of the Iranian Revolution. The images of men crawling on top of each other to climb the wall to get into the Embassy are nerve-wracking. As are the scenes of men and women being taken away at gunpoint with their mouths taped shut. All Americans were taken captive aside from six diplomats who were witness to the acts of violence around them just out of sight. Before the swarming mob flooding the embassy is able to get to the consulate building where they are working, they are able to escape avoiding capture.

While the six Americans take shelter with Canadian Ambassador Ken Taylor (Victor Garber), back in the states a CIA officer named Tony Mendez (Affleck) comes up with scheme to get them out. He contacts a special effects expert by the name of John Chambers (John Goodman) and a producer Lester Siegel (Alan Arkin) from Hollywood. They concoct a grand scheme about the making of a science fiction epic film called ARGO. In this elaborate plan, they intend to bring the Americans home as a film crew who had been “location scouting” in Iran. Throughout the course of this thriller we see how each character is affected by the series of events including the six U.S. citizens Bob Anders (Tate Donovan), Cora Lijek (Clea DuVall), Joe Stafford (Scoot McNairy), Kathy Stafford (Kerry Bishé) Lee Schatz (Rory Cochran) and Mark Lijek (Christopher Denham) – all of whom are perfectly cast.

One of the key factors that really work here is the well placed humor. The script by Chris Terrio tackles this very serious subject matter while giving the audience room to breathe. This is especially true in the Hollywood side of the story. Both Arkin and Goodman are perfect here with some genuinely funny dialogue, after all, the idea of a cheesy science fiction flick saving people’s lives is genuinely an outlandish thought. Yet in no way is the humor inappropriate or disrespectful as their characters are not simply comic relief. Both of these gentlemen give Oscar worthy performances and they add a perfect balance to Affleck’s terrific dramatic turn.

There was a time when the name Ben Affleck seemed to generally be associated with bad films like GIGLI and PEARL HARBOR. Yet after his directorial debut GONE BABY GONE and the impressive THE TOWN, his skills behind and in front of the camera have become very clear. Here, he has crafted a solid thriller that builds tension up until the final act, so much so that I was completely involved in this frightening situation. It also helps that such detail was given to the period in which it took place as well. From a tattered “Hollywood” sign to the news coverage that aired during the takeover, the director created a very real and engaging film that is likely to appeal to most viewers.

Simply put, ARGO is a stunner. From the brilliant opening sequence to the final few frames, Affleck and company offer an intelligent and scarily real tale of heroism. Much like in real life, the heroes are unexpected and thus there is something very powerful about their conflicts. To think that this story was classified so long makes it all the more intriguing – it wasn’t until President Clinton declassified it in 1997. Thankfully, the story can be told and was done so by one of the most interesting directors working today. This is a captivating portrait of a troubled time in history. ARGO is a perfect combination of storytelling, smarts and suspense.

Source: JoBlo.com



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