Argo Review

Based on the real life events of a declassified CIA mission, Argo tells the tale of  “exfiltration” specialist, Tony Mendez, as he attempts to rescue six Americans from Iran during the 1979 hostage crisis under the guise of a Hollywood film crew. Will this film, directed and starring Ben Affleck, along with an all star ensemble cast, be an Oscar contender? We predict: YES.

Story

On November 4, 1979, Iran is in turmoil as a revolution is going on. Earlier in the year, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, the Shah of Iran, was overthrown due to his barbaric ways. He was taken into the United States under asylum, creating further anti-American sentiment throughout the country. Ayatollah Khomeini was put into power. He wanted Iran to become a theocracy and remove the “westernization” that the Shah had previously exposed Iran to.

Angered by events, students and militants storm the American Embassy in Tehran, capturing fifty-two Americans and holding them hostage. Amongst the chaos of the seizure, six Americans escaped and ran to the only place they knew that was safe, the home of the Canadian ambassador to Iran. Canada, in fear of their people and the six escaped Americans, ask the CIA for assistance.

After coming up with a ton of horrible ideas to extract the civilians, the CIA turns to their top specialist, Tony Mendez. He comes up with the idea of disguising the Americans as a Canadian film crew in Iran trying to scout filming  locations for a big budget Hollywood science fiction movie. But it’s not going to be easy. He can’t just walk in and walk out, not without a credible story. Tony goes to Hollywood to find a producer willing to front the money to make a fake movie that includes a script, posters, press coverage, actors and story boards. With the help of his film buddy, John Chambers, Tony is introduced to veteran film maker, Lester Siegel who agrees to do whatever he can to help rescue the refugee civilians.

Can Tony get to the Americans in time before they are discovered and will he be successful in his mission?

Argo starring John Goodman, Alan Arkin, and Ben Affleck
(L-R) John Goodman, Alan Arkin, and Ben Affleck

Overview

Since Gone Baby Gone and The Town, Ben Affleck has been making a name for himself behind the camera. When I heard that not only was he starring in Argo, but also directing, I was really excited to see it. I left the theater not at all disappointed. It lived up to everything I was expecting and then some. While his two previous movies were set in fictional settings, Affleck did a wondrous job retelling actual events with an amazing level of attention to detail, especially at the end when still shots from the movie are compared to real life photos taken during the hostage crisis. The movie lives and breathes 1979. From the clothes, hairstyle and attitudes, you are completely immersed into that era which is all set to an amazing soundtrack. The other thing that makes Argo so realistic is how it reflects the same type of struggles America has had with the Middle East that is still prevalent in modern times. Now while the hostage crisis was a low point in American history, it also was truthful in the pain and anger the Iranian people were going through in their revolution against a tyrant. They may not have handled the situation very diplomatically, but Argo did a very tasteful job in letting the audience understand the anger of the Iranian students and the brutality of the militants.

Argo directed by Ben Affleck
Ben Affleck behind the camera.

Like many retellings of actual events, Argo takes the audience on a journey through the many eyes of the people as they made important decisions, suffered failures and endured hardships. Each and every character played an integral part, as if each was a cog in a well oiled machine. Like their real-life counterparts, each member of the cast had a pivotal role to play. From the government agents, to the civilians, to people of Iraq, all had a bit of a story to tell as they wove together in the plot. It’s easy to say that Ben Affleck is the star of the show in his portrayal of CIA specialist, Tony Mendez. A slightly broken man dealing with a fractured marriage but focused on his mission. Affleck surrounded himself with a brilliant all-star cast. Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad) plays Mendez’ CIA boss and friend, Jack O’Donnell. John Goodman and Alan Arkin play Mendez’ Hollywood contacts, John Chambers and Lester Siegel. I’m not saying that these two are the comic relief of the movie, but they provide the much needed tension relief to a stressful situation. They also give people a slight insight as to the inner workings of Hollywood, which in itself is it own type of governing country of rules and quirkiness. I could go on and on about the rest of the cast, but not a single talented person was wasted. Argo truly has an amazing cast.

I left Argo feeling all the types of emotions that a movie is supposed to make you feel. You feel horrified and scared at the atrocities. You feel elation at the triumphs. You’re happy and sad within minutes of each other. We as film goers have been treated well at the theaters this year with fantastic voyages in the cinematic experience. Argo is one of my absolute favorites of the year that I predict will win some Oscars, hopefully for Affleck in lead actor and director. Maybe even executive producer, George Clooney, will get an award for best movie. Every audience member I spoke with at the end of the screener was in complete agreement that Argo is definitely a must see movie of 2012. I highly recommend seeing Argo this weekend. You will not be disappointed. Another thing, don’t leave right when the credits roll. A special voice will come across the speakers talking about Tony Mendez and the great job he did for the CIA and the American Civilians.

If you would like to learn more about the events of the Iranian Hostage Crisis, check out the Wiki page for some of the background story.

In Theaters: October 12, 2012
Runtime:  2 hours
Rating: R (for language and some violent images)
Director: Ben Affleck
Cast: Ben Affleck, Alan Arkin, Bryan Cranston, John Goodman, Kerry Bishé, Kyle Chandler, Rory Cochrane, Christopher Denham, Tate Donovan, Clea DuVall, Victor Garber, Zeljko Ivanek, Richard Kind, Scoot McNairy, Chris Messina, Michael Parks, Taylor Schilling
Genre: Action/Adventure, Adaptation, Comedy, Drama
Distributor: Warner Bros. Pictures
Official Site: http://www.argothemovie.com