Argo (2012)

Argo (2012)

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"Okay, so the film's called Argo..."
“Okay, so the film’s called Argo…”

Twitter Plot Summary: The American embassy is attacked! Some get out and hide with the Canadians! More Americans decide to go in and… they don’t kill everyone?!

Genre: Drama/History/Thriller

Director: Ben Affleck

Key Cast: Ben Affleck, John Goodman, Alan Arkin, Bryan Cranston.

Five Point Summary:

1. It’s 1979! Everything’s still brown! Or orange!
2. Nice variety of facial hair
3. That fake film doesn’t sound too bad, actually…
4. Look, Ben Affleck has a beard!
5. Will they actually get out of there? Well yeah.

Ben Affleck’s previous directorial efforts have stayed in his comfort zone of Boston (Gone Baby Gone and The Town being the two in question), but this time he goes about as far away as he can – Iran, to be precise.

Argo was one of the movies last year I wanted to see but missed my chance, and I had plenty of chances to go see it. This was before I just thought “stuff it” and started going by myself. The plot: It is a period of civil war. Rebel spaceships, striking from a hidden base, have won their first victory against… no, hang on. That’s Star Wars. It’s not far off this, however. Based on a true story, it’s 1979 and there’s unrest in Iran. The American embassy is besieged and a group of 6 Americans get out before the insurgents break in and hold the embassy staff hostage. The group take refuge with the Canadian ambassador and it’s here that we’re introduced to “exfiltrator” Ben Affleck. His job is to… well, do the opposite of infiltrate. Get people out of hot zones and all that jazz.

There's a good boy, Ben.
There’s a good boy, Ben.

John Goodman and Alan Arkin offer able support as the executives back in Hollywood responsible for “financing” and “producing” the fake film, the titular Argo. It’s their double act that adds some levity to the story. They’re entertaining and amusing, yet you never lose sight of the reason why they’re involved. They’re integral to everything that happens, but it could have easily been far too serious for its own good if they hadn’t received as much screen time as they did. As is discussed in the film, the whole “Argo” thing has to be believable at every level in order to succeed. It’s a shame that the Americans they’re trying to get out of Iran are so poorly represented. I keep coming back to this word but they’re ciphers, they are MacGuffins to the story and not really much more. They’re also an excuse to show off a hugely impressive array of facial hair choices. It was the 70s after all.

Affleck knows how to build tension, none more so than when the group are attempting to pass through customs at the airport. Luckily this is a story that not a huge number of people knew about, so you’re never quite sure if they will actually escape, or if one or more of them will be captured. I certainly had no knowledge of events until I read about the film. Certain elements are expanded on or reduced for the sake of dramatic tension – the runway chase (which didn’t actually happen), the fact that in 1979 the CIA wouldn’t have been able to feed the boarding information to the Iranian airports systems that quickly, the fact the idea actually came from the Canadians – but such matters are easily forgiven as you’re too absorbed in the story to give it thought. Unless you’re Canadian and obstinate, of course.

I’ve never considered Ben Affleck to be a bad actor – not stellar but certainly not bad – he’s put in some solid performances in his own films, but he’s also shown a real knack for this directing lark. He seems to be getting better with each film, so I’m looking forward to whatever he does next. IMDB seems to think he’s adapting Live By Night by Dennis Lehane. In any case, much like Argo it will be a fantastic film.

Favourite scene: Bryan Cranston shouting at his CIA underlings. He does angry well.

Quote: “This is the best bad idea we’ve had, sir.”

Silly Moment:  Iranians chasing a plane on a runway. Just to add a bit of tension.

Score: 4/5

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