Argo

17 Mar

Argo

 

Director: Ben Affleck

Writers: Chris Terrio (screenplay), Tony Mendez (book)

Stars: Ben Affleck, Bryan Cranston, John Goodman

Motion Picture Rating: R

Runtime: 120 minutes

 

 

What an amazing run Ben Affleck is on. From the desperate double-whammy of Daredevil and Gigli in 2003, he has transformed his status and gone on to conquer Hollywood. Argo completes a series of 3 high quality films as director following on from Gone Baby Gone (2007) and The Town (2010). That Argo also won the best film Oscar in the latest La-La Land love-fest is a huge cherry on top.

Argo, as portrayed in this film, is a great story. It re-tells the Iranian hostage saga of 1979 from the perspective of the six US embassy staffers that escaped being taken hostage by hiding out at the Canadian embassy. Whilst their colleagues are paraded on TV with blindfolds and makeshift handcuffs, the six sit tight under the protective wing of brave Canadians and pray for government intervention. About 80 days into the crisis the CIA dream up a convoluted escape plan for them based on staging a fake sci-fi movie production inside Iran (with the title Argo).

Affleck plays the lead CIA operative Tony Mendez who is the one that goes into Tehran to bring out the six embassy workers. First he has to con Hollywood to set up the fake film and to that end he hires John Goodman (as Hollywood make-up artist John Chambers) and Alan Arkin (as producer Leslie Siegel). Those 2 actors are invariably great and both have a lot of fun with these cynical characters. In fact, the Hollywood late ‘70’s segue is handled well and delivers a few inside jokes and knowing laughs. That reverence and the positive role that Hollywood is shown to have played in rescuing the embassy staffers no doubt helped to win over the Oscar voters.

Besides great turns by Goodman and Arkin, and an effective, but strangely muted performance by Affleck, Argo benefits from moving along at a good pace. It is exciting when it should be and archive footage of the hostage crisis is deployed cleverly to add to the drama.

Finally, there are 2 important things that I have to say. The first is that the story of the six embassy escapees as retold by Affleck is not as accurate as it should be. Rather ironically, but not surprisingly, Hollywood has not let the truth get in the way of a good movie here. My second point is that I am amazed that Argo got the Oscar. This is a solid piece of entertainment, but it is a very weak ‘best film’. I enjoyed it, as most people will do, but this is workmanlike cinema and merits no more than decent box office receipts. Well done again to the comeback kid Affleck, but I found both Gone Baby Gone and The Town to be far superior.

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