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“Argo” Captivates

A movie about the Iran hostage crisis in 1979-81 doesn’t scream “must-see” to me. I’m not big into politics. I don’t know much about the Middle East. And in 1980 I was negative six.

Despite all that, “Argo,” the third directorial feature by Ben Affleck, is an intense, thrilling, edge-of-your-seat ride that is thoroughly entertaining. Within the first ten minutes I was hooked.

Based on the declassified true story of six American diplomats who escaped the U.S. embassy in Tehran during the Iranian Revolution and hid in the Canadian ambassadors home, “Argo” follows CIA specialist Tony Mendez (Affleck) and his attempt to rescue them.

The covert operation was a joint rescue mission between the CIA, Canada, and Hollywood. In order to get out the six escapees, they had to pretend to be a Canadian film crew working scouting locations for a sci-fi fantasy called “Argo.”

I went to the film largely because of my faith in Ben Affleck. I’ve been a fan since “Armageddon” and even stayed loyal during the whole “Gigli”/ Bennifer debacle. While his filmography as an actor is hit-and-miss, his work behind the camera has been much more impressive (“Gone Baby Gone,” “The Town”).

The six escapees getting questioned at the airport on their way out of Iran.

There is an authenticity to the look and feel of “Argo.” The wardrobe, hair styles, dialog, even the graininess of the film all helps create a realness. How accurate the film is, I don’t know, but it feels very honest and truthful. During the end credits, images of the film’s characters are juxtaposed with their real-life counterparts and the pictures are near identical.

“Argo” starts with the takeover of the embassy and in a very short period of time gets your heart racing. We then jump to Washington D.C. and planning meetings on how to get the hostages out, then on to LA to start making a fake movie. With cuts back and forth to Iran militarists, you can feel the danger and the sense of urgency to getting the six out. All this builds up to Mendez going to Tehran and putting the plan into action.

The final escape has you holding your breath in a will they/ won’t they race to make it out. Even if you know what happens you still find yourself holding your breath and urging them on. It’s an incredible story and the translation to the big screen is amazing.

JOHN GOODMAN (left) as John Chambers and ALAN ARKIN as Lester Siegel in “ARGO.”

While Affleck does most of the heavy-lifting on-screen he has a great supporting cast backing him up. Bryan Cranston as Tony’s boss, Alan Arkin and John Goodman as Hollywood bigwigs, Victor Garber as the Canadian Ambassador, Kyle Chandler as President Carter’s Chief-of-Staff, and Tate Donovan and Clea DuVall as two of the six escapees.

If you are a fan of good storytelling and suspenseful drama, this movie is for you. It doesn’t matter how much you know, or if you even care, about Middle East politics. “Argo” is a human story that entertains.

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  1. Pingback: 2012 in Review: The Good, Bad, and In Between « i'm a movie nerd - December 28, 2012

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