I Saw A Film Today… Argo

ArgoMidnightMarauderInteresting how current events sometime coincide with a film’s release. The recent attack on the American Consulate in Libya a little over a month ago seemed to raise interest in Ben Affleck’s latest film, Argo, a biopic thriller set during the 1979 Iran Hostage Crisis. While not connected in any way, the nature of the situation share similarities. You know, some things never change. People will revolt and unfortunately innocent lives will be lost. A simple misunderstanding will get out of hand. And, sadly, politics will overshadow the event itself.

Argo doesn’t waste time and jumps right into the events that lead to the Iranian revolutionaries storming the U.S. Embassy. Ben Affleck, much like the co-producer George Clooney, has made the transition from leading man to director chair impressively with two other films under his belt. Here, Affleck truly produces a thriller by taking intense events and turning them into real edge of your seat moments. Even though I know how this story ends, the last thirty minutes of Argo truly are nail-bitters.

For those who don’t know anything about the ’79 Iran Hostage Crisis, here’s the abbreviated skinny: In retaliation for the United States providing support to Mohammad Reza Pahlavi (Google him), young Iranian revolutionaries overtook the U.S. Embassy in Tehran. Each American was rounded up and held as hostages for 444 days… except for six who escaped out a back door and hid out in the Canadian and Swedish Embassies for close to three months.

The bulk of Argo takes place near the end of those three months. The CIA brings in one of their best agents, Tony Mendez (Portrayed by Affleck). Eventually Mendez comes up with a outrageous plan: to fly out to Tehran, pose as a Canadian film scout for a film, and fly the six Americans out of the country as members of the film crew.

To make everything seem legitimate though, Mendez must pull out all the stops. This means everything from getting a producer (Alan Arkin) to creating a studio with an office and even holding a press event for their fake film, Argo. But the longer it takes to get all the credentials and the six together, the more the Iranians are beginning to realize that there are some hostages missing.

Believe all the Oscar buzz surrounding this film. It would really be a shame if the Academy overlooked this film, especially in the best picture category. What Affleck has done here is crafted a film in the thriller genre that is worthy of the title. Nearly every scene hinges on the strength of a tense single string, and miraculously it never snaps or breaks. The tension in the final thirty minutes keep you on the edge of your seat with bated breaths.

Amid all this seriousness though is a film that has its moments of comedy, which may be its most surprising aspect. Many of the big laughs come from the brilliant Alan Arkin and John Goodman as the two Hollywood insiders set up fake offices for their fake film, and so on. You even get the small joy of being in on an “inside joke”, where on numerous occasions the characters say “Argo f*** yourself”. And like most inside jokes, you wont get it unless you see the film.

Aside from doing a superb job directing, this is also one of Ben Affleck’s finest acting endeavors. He seems like a man who has little control of the situation around him, yet completely does the entire time. Such a subtle performance from a talented man. The supporting cast is rounded out by Bryan Cranston, who somehow appears in nearly every film that has come out this year. Kyle Chandler and Victor Garber, both truly underrated actors, also makes an appearance.

Argo is a rare gem of a film. It’s a thriller with real thrills, without the necessity of huge explosions or impromptu car chases. And it is also a “based on a true story” that is truly based off a true story. If you don’t mind a little language, I suggest parents taking their older children to see this film. I doubt this nugget of history will appear in the class room.

Verdict: SEE IT!

* Rated R for language and some violence.

** Poster by Midnight Marauder

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