Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Review: Argo

On his third directorial effort, Ben Affleck goes out of the Boston crime stories and tackles a very timely topic of diplomatic tensions. Argo recreates a moment in world history that is emotionally resonant, humorous and  tense.

On November 4, 1979, the Iranian revolution reaches its boiling point and militants storm the U.S embassy in Tehran, taking 52 Americans hostage. But six Americans managed to escape and find refuge in the home of the Canadian ambassador (Victor Garber). Knowing it is only a matter of time before the escapees are found and likely executed, CIA “exfiltration” expert Tony Mendez (Ben Affleck) comes up with an ambitious but risky plan. With the help of acclaimed make-up artist John Chambers (John Goodman) and producer Lester Siegel (Alan Arkin), they established the production of a fake intergalactic science-fiction epic “Argo” and have the six pose as members of a Canadian movie crew scouting locations in Iran.

Argo's screenplay is based on an article written by Joshua Bearman about the Iranian hostage crisis and a chapter from a book by the real Tony Mendez. While the script took some liberties to make the story more cinematic, it knows not to make it flashy and executes each scene in a clean and unaffected manner.

The film's three acts are clearly-defined and smoothly glides from one part to another. The film starts with the haunting images of the militants breaking in the US embassy and those scenes will give you the shivers as it established the high tension atmosphere so effectively. The middle part of the film involves setting up the production of the fake film in Hollywood and this section brings in the laughs thanks to its self-deprecating humor and dry wit. But the film smartly didn't linger with that portion of the story as once Mendez goes to Iran to rescue the six Americans, the film fully takes off. The last act of the movie is riveting and intense. From the moment Mendez and the six escapees goes to the public as “the Canadian crew” to the time they are in the airport to execute their escape plan, Argo never fails to give edge of the seat thrills. How this story ends is no secret but still the film manages to stir up suspense.

Argo's production aspect is laudable from the editing to the cinematography even the hairstyling and costumes. It also helps that they used archived footage of the protests and actual news reports to make it feel more authentic. The performances from the cast is commendable and all the actors in this large ensemble were all given their moments to shine. Arkin will likely be the standout to most people as he delivers each punchy dialogue relentlessly but the lesser-known actors who played the six escapees are quite good as well as you could actually feel the frustration and fear without having brassy breakdown scenes or aggravated confrontations.

It's not easy to pull of a film based on a true story especially a subject as sensitive as this but Argo proves that it is still possible for Hollywood to come up with an entertaining film without comprising the spirit of the actual incident.

Rating: 10 / 10

1 comment:

Dan O. said...

Not the most perfect movie I’ve seen this year, but is still an entertaining flick about a top-secret mission nobody ever knew about. Sadly, we all know how it ends and that’s what kind of sucks all of the energy out of this flick in the long-run. Good review Forg.