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October 17, 2012

Argo - Review

There are some stories out there that most people just won’t believe. They’re too crazy, ludicrous, and impossible to be true, or even theoretically work. If you saw these events in a movie, you just might call it out on its stupidity. Argo is based around such incredible events.

The scene is 1979, and a crisis has just surfaced in Iran. Radical Islamic citizens have stormed the U.S. embassy in Tehran and taken the American workers hostage. But the film isn’t about them.

Instead, the focus is on the six Americans who managed to escape unnoticed, housed in the home of the Canadian ambassador. The U.S. government is desperate to get them out, and no options seem like good ones. So the C.I.A. decides to go with the only idea that might be crazy enough to work: a fake sci-fi film called Argo.

American hostages in Argo
Tony Mendez (director/actor Ben Affleck) is tasked with creating a credible production behind the film to get into Iran. Under the guise of location scouting, he must sneak the six fugitives out of the country, with the bloodthirsty revolutionaries searching around every corner.
As mentioned before, the plot sounds absolutely ludicrous. And yet, it actually happened in real life, and it’s this astounding fact that lends the film much of its tension. The final act is a raw nail-biter, especially knowing how delicate the operation is.It never fails to hold your attention, even without gunshots or explosions.
The amount of nerve-shredding tension the film emulates is also a testament to Affleck’s shocking ability as a director. Here, in just three films (his previous efforts, Gone Baby Gone and The Town, are each critical darlings) he has proven himself to be one of the most talented directors working today.He effectively captures the uneasiness and realistic portrayal of the situation, making the film feel all the more real.

"As long as this script isn't Reindeer Games 2, you got a deal"
Affleck also manages to effectively portray the look and feel of an era. From the opening titles to the type of film stock used, it’s easy to think that Argo could have been lifted straight out of the ‘70s among the works of Sidney Lumet (whose classic film Network actually gets a shout-out during a newscast). Production design and attention to detail is astounding.

Even with the more tense moments, it never forgets how laughable the concept is, and has fun with it. Darkly humorous moments are sprinkled throughout, particularly during Mendez’ scramble to assemble the production in Hollywood. John Goodman and Alan Arkin perfectly satirize the politics and mechanisms behind the filmmaking industry. Bryan Cranston even manages a few laughs.

Ben Affleck’s performance in front of the camera is just as commendable. While it’s easy for an actor to be very self-indulgent and showy in this type of film, Affleck plays it very low-key, letting the story take center stage. His everyman persona proves very effective, making his portrayal of a determined spy believable and relatable.

Argo is, simply put, one of the best thrillers to come out this year. Fueled by its insane, I-can’t-believe-this-actually-happened story, powerful direction, and effective performances, the film has a major edge that is sure to turn heads come Oscar season.Always interesting and engaging, it’s a textbook example of how to do a thriller right. And in market full of Taken 2’s and Houses at the Ends of Streets, that’s never a bad thing.

4.5/5 Stars

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