Review: Argo / Cert: 15 / Director: Ben Affleck / Screenplay: Chris Terrio / Starring: Ben Affleck, Bryan Cranston, Alan Arkin, John Goodman, Victor Garber / Release Date: November 7th
Argo is not a film about a catalogue merchant, although that would obviously be enthralling. It is a film about a CIA agent who rescues six hostages from Iran by pretending they’re making a sci-fi film. If that doesn’t sound crazy enough, it’s based on a true story.
Ben Affleck directs and stars in the film, set in the midst of the 1979 Iranian Revolution. The whole look of the film is very '70s, from the credits and cut of the film down to the obligatory dodgy haircuts. A fantastic supporting cast including Bryan Cranston, Alan Arkin and John Goodman all do the extraordinary story justice.
The film begins with militants storming the U.S embassy in Iran, angered at the USA's support of the recently deposed Shah. As staff desperately try to destroy sensitive information, six manage to escape being taken hostage and hide out at a Canadian ambassador’s house.
CIA specialist Tony Mendez (Affleck) is called in to create a rescue plan, and, after watching Battle for the Planet of the Apes, comes up with the idea that they’ll smuggle the six out under the pretence they’re a Canadian sci-film crew. The ‘best of a bad bunch’ idea is green-lighted and Mendez and his supervisor (Cranston) begin to set up an actual film production for plausibility, enlisting the help of a Hollywood make-up artist (Goodman) and a film producer (Arkin).
The thriller’s occasional moments of well-timed comedy banter are immediately replaced with building tension as Mendez arrives in Iran and everyone involved has to fight against increasingly difficult odds to succeed and survive. This climaxes in an airport scene that is genuinely one of the tensest few minutes of cinema in recent years.
The film is only spoiled by a couple of minutes of cliché towards the end, but overall is a superb and mostly historically accurate effort. However, the Canadians were allegedly a bit annoyed that the original cut didn’t give them the credit they deserved during ‘The Canadian Caper’ the film is based on.
Affleck’s resurgence continues with a solid third directorial outing, and great performances from the entire cast.