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Argo - Cinemaholic Movie Reviews
one person's obsessive addiction to film
Directing: A-
Acting: A-
Writing: A-
Cinematography: B+
Editing: A

Argo must be a distinctly different experience depending on the generation of the viewer. When the Iran Hostage Crisis happened, I was four years old. To me, it's history. To many people, it's memory. The thing is, this particular story is equally amazing in either case.

It's a CIA-led mission that remained classified until 1997: six Americans escaped the U.S. Embassy in Iran, and were kept hidden in the home of the Canadian Ambassador for weeks. The way they got out of that mess is so preposterous it would never work as fiction: the CIA worked with Hollywood to create a fake movie for which a Canadian film crew would travel to Iran to scout locations. The Hollywood collaborators included none other than John Chambers (played here by John Goodman), makeup designer for Star Trek and the iconic look of the original Planet of the Apes.

But let's not get ahead of ourselves. Ben Affleck, proving once again to be a more than capable director -- I look forward to seeing more of his output -- wastes no time getting us into the action from the very beginning. Argo starts with Iranians storming the U.S. Embassy, wherein workers immediately set out to destroying all the paperwork they possibly can. These are the same people who are eventually taken hostage and held for 444 days. That's the story the world knew, quite intimately at the time, but here serves as the backdrop for the untold story.

Because six of those Americans managed not to get taken hostage. But they have no easy way out, and when the Canadians take them in, they have no idea how and when they will go home. The country they are in is unimaginably dangerous, but Affleck wisely keeps the details down to a minimum. What more do you need to see, really, besides a man hung publicly from a construction crane?

Affleck himself plays Tony Mendez, the mastermind behind this insane idea. He must first travel to L.A. to get a fake movie into production. He meets with Chambers and producer Lester Siegel (a thoroughly entertaining Alan Arkin) and they are the two major Hollywood players as depicted here. They work with Mendez to get information about this fake movie put in trade publications to give it credibility. They even get a publicized script reading underway, complete with obvious Star Wars rip-off costumes. One looks like Chewbacca died blue.

These sequences offer the rather healthy dose of humor. The phrase "Argo fuck yourself!" becomes a mantra. That phrase is easily uttered more than any other in this movie, and I never stopped getting a kick out of it.

From there, Mendez flies into Iran posing as an Associate Producer scouting locations with a film crew to be played by these six Americans. Affleck creates a fascinating dynamic, alternating between the cynical artifice of Hollywood and the potent dangers of Iranian revolution. This alone makes Argo a movie unlike any other.

One should be cognizant of the phrase "based on true events," though. This means that, inevitably, a whole lot of stuff gets Hollywood-ized. Don't get me wrong -- this is one gripping, entertaining movie. That said, I'm a little suspicious of the sheer number of ridiculously close calls this group of people goes through, one after another. You could pick and choose any one and think, okay, that could have happened. But all of them?

There are also so many recognizable faces it's somewhat distracting: Bryan Cranston as Mendez's boss; Kyle Chandler as a guy in the Secretary of State's Office; even Richard Kind as a studio executive. This happens enough and it pulls you out of the movie instead of into it.

That's just nitpicking, though. A movie is a movie, and Argo is a great one, so long as you don't take it as a gospel account of what truly happened. Knowing that these people were extracted from Iran under the guise of making some second-rate science fiction movie is frankly enough. It's stranger than fiction and it's solid entertainment.

Attempting safe passage out of ARGO.

Overall: A-
1 comment or Leave a comment
tommy50702 From: tommy50702 Date: December 22nd, 2014 01:26 pm (UTC) (Link)
I love this movie. It’s not a documentary, it’s a Hollywood film. It’s not intended to disrespect the Canadians or glorify the Americans.
1 comment or Leave a comment