Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Movie Review - Argo

Argo (2012)
Starring Ben Affleck, Bryan Cranston, Alan Arkin, John Goodman, Victor Garber, Tate Donovan, Clea Duvall, Scoot McNairy, Rory Cochrane, Christopher Denham, and Kerry Bishé
Directed by Ben Affleck

Having been born in 1980 and having taken very few (if any) "modern" history courses, I'm feeling moderately okay with the fact that I know very little about the Iran Hostage Crisis beyond the fact that "it happened."  I realize this is an irrational justification...I should know about this...but I don't.  Having said that, the story behind Argo wasn't even fully known until 1997 when President Bill Clinton declassified the information behind the release of six Americans from Iran who were previously thought to have been freed solely due to Canadian ingenuity.  The truth is that the release of the hostages was formulated much more thanks to US creativity, but the joint effort between the two countries was nothing short of amazing...and also kind of crazy.  Were this a fictional movie, you'd never believe it possible, but considering this actually happened, it's fascinatingly riveting.

Without going into the brief history lesson at the beginning of the film, let's just jump into the fact that in 1979, the US Embassy in Iran was overtaken and fifty-two Americans were taken hostage for over 444 days.  Argo is not their story, however.  Instead, Ben Affleck's film focuses upon six Americans who escaped the embassy and found a safe haven at the Canadian consulate.  Finding themselves forced to stay hidden, they quickly come down with a case of cabin fever with nowhere to turn.

Back in the States, our government is under pressure from Canada to get the Americans out of their embassy as Ambassador Ken Taylor (Victor Garber) is finding it increasingly difficult to keep his "houseguests" out of Iranian sight.  CIA exfiltration expert Tony Mendez (Ben Affleck) is called in by his boss Jack O'Donnell (Bryan Cranston) to try and figure out how to safely remove the hostages when every other CIA plan proves inadequate.  Mendez concocts a crazy notion to create a fake movie with the help of a Hollywood producer (Alan Arkin) and a make-up artist (John Goodman) that plans on shooting in Iran.  With a background story in place, Mendez heads into Iran posing as a Canadian film producer with the intent of getting the six hostages safely back home.

I think first and foremost praise for Argo's success needs to be heaped upon director Ben Affleck.  Affleck proved himself competent in the overrated though good Gone Baby Gone in 2007 and further showed his talent in the tense and taut The Town in 2010.  Neither of those films showed the deft hand he puts in place in Argo, though.  The last hour of this film flies by like no other movie I've seen this year (which is certainly, in part, due to the excellent script by Chris Terrio [in his debut!] which balances the severity of the rescue attempt with the sheer ridiculousness of the real life plot).  Amazingly crafted, Affleck is a talent behind the camera and this film shows it.  This is a smart thriller that had me biting my nails for the final thirty minutes.

Still, where Affleck proves his worth (as he has in all his films thus far) is in his way of pulling together incredibly talented actors and getting them to give great performances.  Argo continues this trend without a doubt.  A veritable "Who's Who" of "I've Seen That Guy Before," everyone here is working together as an ensemble.  No single person towers over another including Affleck who certainly has the lead role.  Ultimately, this may work to the film's disadvantage come Oscar time because I'm not really sure any one person stands out enough to warrant awards attention, but as an ensemble they are simply amazing.  Kudos certainly need to go to the six hostages -- Tate Donovan, Clea Duvall, Scoot McNairy, Rory Cochrane, Christopher Denham, and Kerry Bishé -- who find the perfect balance between relief that they found a safe home at the Canadian embassy to neurosis that they may never get back home alive.

Argo is a thrilling drama aimed at smart adults and the director at its helm deserves credit for its success.  I am well-known for looking at my watch during movies, but as I mentioned above, Argo flew by and that is always a success in my book...and it's also my first "A" rating of the year.

The RyMickey Rating: A


  1. Your review prompted me to get myself in gear and finally go see this.
    I haven't been so edge-of-my-seat-heart-pounding since seeing the Kingdom (which, of course, I remember little of aside from being terrified).

  2. I waited a long time to see it, too, but it's definitely worth a look. I also remember liking The Kingdom, but this is definitely better than that (although, like you, I don't remember a ton beyond the fact that I watched it solely for being in the Jennifer Garner phase of my life).