Movie Review | Argo
With a plot more exciting than Star Wars, Argo tells the story of the mission to save six US embassy employees during the most tumultuous time in US/Iranian relations. Ben Affleck directs an action packed thriller that doesn’t rely on guns, special effects, sex or a made up superhero plot but instead relies on a real life espionage story that not even Hollywood can make up.
In 1979, Iranian revolutionaries took control of the US embassy in Tehran, Iran, taking the staff as hostages. Believing they’ve captured all embassy employees, six evade capture and hide at the home of the Canadian ambassador Ken Taylor (Victor Garbo). CIA officer Tony Mendez (Affleck) is brought in originally by the US State Department as a consultant, listening in on all the proposals the State department is considering to free the six embassy employees. Mendez points out their weaknesses but is unable to come up with his own solution until it comes to him by watching Battle For the Planet Of the Apes. His idea is to create a cover story that the escapees are Canadian filmmakers scouting locations in Iran for the film “Argo,” a Star Wars rip-off with a mild Middle Eastern theme.
In order to make Argo appear real, Mendez and his boss, Jack O’Donnell (Bryan Cranston), contact John Chambers (John Goodman), a Hollywood makeup artist who has worked on the Apes series as well as having done contract work for the CIA. He puts them in touch with Lester Siegel (Alan Arkin), a movie producer. Together with Mendez, the two use their contacts and knowledge of Hollywood to set up their own offices, place ads in Variety, and successfully stage a fake press conference to sell Argo to the movie industry.
Meanwhile, the situation in Iran is getting worse each day. Mendez enters Iran under his fake identity as a producer. He travels to the ambassador’s home to discuss his plan with the six escapees, providing them with documentation that contains their new identities they must memorize and be convincing enough to fool the screeners at the airport. None of the escapees really believe this plan will work nor really trust Mendez but eventually realize remaining in Iran will lead to their eventual capture.
Based on a true story, Argo is arguably one of the most realistic portrayals of real life spies. The movie moves quickly from one scene to the next and nicely blends actual news footage of the era that is intersperse throughout the film as well as using rock and disco music from the time period. It’s almost a key part of the film in that you get a real vibe of the time period. The film also provides a terrific sense of the tension that took place between the key players of the operation, from the White House who at one point shut it down, the State Department who want their people returned safely, and the CIA who are already on the ground and are this close to getting them out. Affleck goes to great depth never to lampoon either side but to give each their due, as well as the Canadian government’s involvement in their rescue. It’s rare when you watch a film already knowing the outcome that causes you to say to yourself, “Will they get out alive?” On that level, Argo succeeds brilliantly. This is a true spy adventure that can only happen in real life. It’s a definite must see movie. — Rob P.