Argo | Movie Review

“…one of the best thrillers of the year.”

We can all half-heartedly expect a Ben Affleck film to go one way or another—either really bad or really great—but, in the case of Argo, it was really great.

Argo, based on real events, tells the story of the infamous CIA exfiltration specialist Tony Mendez (Ben Affleck) and his brilliant scheme to free six at-risk Americans from the home of a Canadian ambassador during the Iranian Hostage Crisis of 1979. I know, too much? Held together with an outstanding mixture of large acts like Bryan CranstonJohn Goodman, and Alan Arkin, the Argo is a beautiful thriller that will keep you on the edge of your seats at nearly every moment and embraces the theme of great sci-fi cinema versus stone-cold reality.

john goodman alan arkin ben affleck argo
John Goodman, Alan Arkin, and Ben Affleck in Argo

Argo is the name of the fake film feature that Hollywood old-timer Lester Siegel (Arkin) and  producer John Chambers (Goodman) throw together in a pinch when Mendez approaches them with the idea to disguise the six as a Hollywood team of producers scouting the location in Iran. The entire film gives the audience an accurate 70s vibe, when the CIA was operating with shoddy phone systems and airports could be tricked with fake written passports. The script itself was plucked from a pile of other bad sci-fi films and is required to have absurd aliens invading a farmer's homeland, a sweet reminder of what's really going on in the larger film.

From the beginning, with real footage of the hostile forces against the American Embassy, and throughout, the thriller pushes you to the brink, using many themes that sadly still exist today and appealing to the audience's understanding of the Muslim country then. The film thoroughly exercises the emotion and drama that takes place between agencies and people, and, in some instances, allows the audience to exert their own humanity unto the six characters. Affleck does a great job clashing the Eastern and Western worlds, such as burgers and fried chicken in a bazaar. It isn't until the least confident member of the hostages uses storyboard drawings of the fake film to appeal to airport security that you feel an ounce of hope for the seven individuals' lives.

Affleck's portrayal of Mendez surprisingly leaves enough room for the drama to occur, and his moody demeanor gave the chilling effect of whatever happens, happens—and there's nothing you can do about it. Not something you want when you're trying to believe that they can make it out of there alive. The calm tone of the entire film quietly juxtaposed the possible doom and chaotic scenes, heightening the stakes and making the audience try to rationalize an ending, despite knowing that everything worked out in reality. The last scene on the plane might've taken a little too long.

The best comedic highlights are in the beginning when the film is thrown together. Mendez gathers the idea of the film crew from watching Planet of the Apes and observing the exotic location while speaking to his son in Virginia on the phone. There was a lovely moment at the end when he is finally back with his separated family and the shot stops at one of the sci-fi images used to convince security. The many authoritative figures, such as Cranston, brought the film back to reality, of course, and the running comedic joke "Argo-f*** yourselves" was brought to a smashing halt when faced with the inevitable risks.

bryan cranston ben affleck argo
Bryan Cranston and Ben Affleck in Argo

     Overall          —

Argo is probably one of the best thrillers this year has to offer when considering the uncomfortable closeness the audience came to its own reality. The underlying themes of political oppression, cooperative discourse, and Hollywood-esque absurdity gave the film a fighting chance and a conclusion it deserved. The risks and stakes are high and solid displaying the films use of editing realistic events, such as hangings being hoisted up into the air for all to see by cranes.

The beautiful story of whether or not hostages might live to see another day can appeal to all audiences and makes this film a hit with anyone who can empathize with individuals who don't have a shot in hell.


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