Hi, Bryan Here….
Ben Affleck’s ‘Argo’ is a brilliantly told film. Affleck has come a long way since ‘Dazed and Confused’ and ‘Mallrats‘. In my opinion, Affleck has gotten better with each directorial effort with ‘Gone Baby Gone’, ‘The Town’, and now ‘Argo’, which I think is his best yet. Not only is ‘Argo’ a great film, it has a smart script, good acting, clever humor in a serious and tragic situation, and impeccable period detail that rivals AMC’s ‘Mad Men’. I have no doubt that ‘Argo’ will be in my Top 10 list for this year.
‘Argo’ is the true story of the Iran hostage crisis from 1979-1980, where the Ayatollah Khomeini took over for the US supported Shah in Iran in 1979, which was de-classified in 1997 by president Bill Clinton. Tensions reached an all time high at this point when the Ayatollah condemned the western world and angered its citizens. The American embassy employees and citizens who were wanting to get to the US were all taken hostage by the angry mob outside the gates once they broke through. However, six American employees managed to escape the embassy and take refuge at the Canadian embassy down the road. A couple of months went by, and the Iranians still did not know that there were six missing embassy employees.
The CIA has been trying to plan a scheme to get these six hostages out of Iran, without being caught. Here is where agent Tony Mendez (Ben Affleck) comes into the picture. He has had former experience with getting people out of hostage situations. After each plan is laid out, everyone figures it won’t work, until Mendez watches a scene of ‘Battle for the Planet of the Apes’ with his son and gets the idea to smuggle out the hostages through a fake sci-fi movie production set in Iran.
He enlists the help of make-up artist John Chambers (John Goodman) and producer Lester Siegel (Alan Arkin) to help get the word out about this new sci-fi film called ‘Argo’ to seem like it’s a real thing. Mendez insists that this film must look and have all the real traits of going forward as a real project, so that if any foreign person can check to see if the project is legit while Mendez is out there posing as a producer and location scout.
After the okay from Mendez’s boss Jack O’Donnell (Bryan Cranston), the “Hollywood Operation’ is a go. All the fake passports and documents are made and Mendez sets out for Iran to rescue the six Americans who have been taking refuge for a few months now. Even though, we all know how this turned out, the final act had me on the edge of my seat and sweating bullets. Much kudos to Affleck and writer Chris Terrio.
There is actually quite a bit of comedy in this bleak thriller. Alan Arkin’s Hollywood producer character and John Goodman’s real life make up artist character steal the show. Their sardonic remarks about Hollywood and the business had me laughing out loud throughout the film. While this is not a 100% actual account of what happened, ‘Argo’ isn’t that movie, however Affleck went above and beyond to make this as authentic as possible. The interiors, clothing, makeup are spot on. Affleck even uses the old Warner Bros. logo at the start of the film.
Affleck intersperses clips from actual footage of this crisis and interviews with news anchors and images of the riots and time period to which he places up at the end of the film next to stills from ‘Argo’ that exactly match the real photographs. Affleck also added the side-by-side images of the real people and actors who played them. And like I said above, we all know how this turns out, but Affleck’s director and storytelling still got a big emotional reaction from me and the audience.
It took me to till the end of the film to realize that one of the actors in the film who played one of the hostages was a former co-star of Affleck’s from ‘Dazed and Confused’. His name was Rory Cochrane and when you see the film, see if you can pick him out. Argo’ is a great film, one you’ll want to see in theaters and own on home video. The acting is great and the script is phenomenal. I hope this receives and Oscar nod for writing. If this is a sign of what Affleck is capable of, then bring it on Ben. I want more.