Pinning down my feelings and thoughts on a film like Argo is a difficult task to perform as a writer. Images of United States Embassies in Iran being overthrown and vandalized in 1979 is eerily similar to what is going on today in Libya and other parts of the Middle East. For no other reason than this for the early parts of the film I found it hard to overcome a sense of confused anger that many Americans have been experiencing for the past month or so. But I try my best to remain unbiased so I shall put on my hat of neutrality and evaluate this film as a film!
It is 1979 and the Iranian people are protesting the United States’ harboring of their former Shah, who has been accepted into our country only because he is dying of cancer. The people of Tehran demand that the Shah be returned and tried in Iran, and take over the U.S. Embassy and hold its staff hostage. Before the mob overthrows the embassy, six of the staff escape the building and seek refuge in the home of the Canadian ambassador Ken Taylor (Victor Garber, Alias badass.) The CIA is aware of these six and knows that if they are discovered they will be executed as spies, so they begin to come up with strategies to rescue them. Tony Mendez (Ben Affleck) decides that their most viable option is to get the six out of Iran under the guise of a film crew scouting locations for their Sci-Fi film Argo. Mendez himself heads the operation and goes through the necessary procedures of setting up a legitimate film production and heads to Iran to get the six out.
You know that one scene in every spy movie where the protagonist pulls off some crazy nail-biting caper? That’s basically what every scene in Argo is like. Since it’s based on a true story you know that the six will make it out of Iran (spoiler alert for the historically blasé), but it is still a tense experience. You can feel the profound strain that the six go through when they are out in the public in their movie crew identities, its stressful. I think it’s safe to say that Ben Affleck’s onscreen performance improves when he is also at work behind the camera, as if he has a bigger stake in the film than say…Gigli. Breaking Bad fans will also be pleased to see their favorite good/bad guy have a Walter White-level freak-out at the height of the film. Like many films based on true stories, some elements are fictionalized or adjusted to make the story more entertaining for wide audiences (Canadians saving the day? Yeah right!) Regardless of some historical adjustments, Argo is a great story as a film and an even greater story as a real life event. And it’s just a damn good excuse to like America again. Rock, flag and eagle.
Final Grade: ★★★★ 4/5 Stars