“If I’m going to make a fake movie, it’s going to be a fake hit.”
Cast: Ben Affleck, Bryan Cranston and John Goodman
When Islamist militants storm the US Embassy in Iran, six Americans escape being taken as hostages by slipping out of the building unnoticed. Finding refuge with the Canadian ambassador, the CIA formulate a plan to extract them, though consultant Tony Mendez criticises their proposals.
Much preferring his own idea, Mendez decides to take it upon himself to personally go into Iran and extract them. Posing as a film producer, he will meet the fugitives who will have to act as a team of Canadian filmmakers. Under the guise that they are out there scouting exotic locations for their new film, Argo, Mendez should be able to get the six of them out and back home. This elaborate plan has many flaws though, which in such a hostile environment could prove fatal to everyone involved.
Argo is based on the true events of the 1979 Iranian hostage crisis, and a dramatisation of the article the ‘Canadian Caper’. Given that this is such a heavy topic, the film was surprisingly accurate with the events that unfolded, documenting the unbelievable process that went into ensuring these six Americans were brought home safely. Argo was Affleck’s opportunity to prove that his last film The Town wasn’t just a fluke after the critical acclaim it gathered across the board too. Thankfully this time round was even better, showing that Affleck is looking more settled than ever in his directors chair. It’s hard to tell, but I think his acting has gotten a little better too.
Having put himself in the role of the hero, Tony Mendez, we see a lot of Affleck on our screens. While he has obviously taken advantage of his power and influence behind the film, I’m glad to say he didn’t seem to overdo his workload. As a character, Mendez is the epitome of the protagonist. Willing to sacrifice himself to save six strangers takes a courage not many can hold, and Affleck really gets into this role with a vigour I haven’t seen from him for a while.
It must be said that the acting all around was brilliant; each actor holds their own when presented with a script so full of angst that it further cements this film as a serious story. But for me, Bryan Cranston was especially delightful to watch. As Jack O’Donnell, Cranston is wonderful; playing Mendez’ supervisor meant that he and Affleck had to hold a chemistry relatable to these heavy events, and somehow they also pull off a series of light-hearted, comedic scenes, which ensured their interactions were some of the best in the film. John Goodman and Alan Arkin also had the capacity to do this while keeping the story on track, reminding us that there were much more pressing things going on. It brought the film an element of affability and made sure it wasn’t just another full-on, tense movie. Sometimes these lighter scenes are needed to break up the intensity, and Affleck made the right call here.
Another element of the film which hit the nail on the head was the pacing, which kept the story really fresh. The suspense element was always there too, lasting throughout the film right until the very end. Even if you know the outcome of what happened, I can guarantee you will be on the edge of your seat. Affleck seems to have got his head around the right way to do this, and it builds so well that you are captivated with each scene.
The scene transitions were also seamless. Rather than looking like 3 different films put together as scenes switched from Iran to Hollywood to the CIA headquarters, they blended beautifully. Each place had its own feel and atmosphere, but it wasn’t overly noticeable, meaning that the audience were subconsciously aware of each location and its underlying theme.
Affleck has done it again, and hopefully he’s going to keep on doing it a lot more! Argo is a wonderful film about unbelievable events filled with amazing people. The actors have really put in their all and portrayed each person with a fire akin to these serious events. It is one of the must-watch films from 2012 and really deserved all of the Oscar nominations it got.
Star rating: 8/10
Directed by Ben Affleck.
Running time 120 minutes.