On Nov. 4, 1979, an event that gripped the attention of the world occurred in Tehran, Iran: The Iran Hostage Crisis. The events of the Hostage Crisis are common knowledge, but most people do not realize that six Americans actually escaped the American embassy and hid at the Canadian Ambassador’s house.
“Argo” tells the story of the plan to rescue these people from Iran before they are discovered. The CIA decides to send one agent undercover to sneak them out of the country. The cover story is that they are a Canadian film crew scouting locations for a sci-fi film named “Argo.”
The film follows CIA agent Tony Mendez (Ben Affleck) as he attempts to put together a cover story to rescue the Americans. After hearing absurd plans, such as having the Americans ride bicycles by night to the border, Mendez proposes what he refers to as the CIA’s “best bad plan.”
His reasoning is sound: Hollywood will go anywhere to make a movie, and exotic landscapes work well for sci-fi films. He enlists the help of famed Hollywood make-up artist John Chambers (John Goodman) and producer Lester Siegel (Alan Arkin) to build the cover of a fake production company, scouting Middle Eastern locations for a Star Wars ripoff. The CIA and State Department only accept the idea because it is the best of the bad ideas.
“Argo” is quite possibly the best film to be released so far this year. Everything about it works amazingly well. The plot is unique and almost laughable in its concept, yet it has the credibility of being based on real events. If a purely fictional film tried to pitch the concept of rescuing people from enemy territory by pretending to shoot a B-grade science fiction movie, no one would buy it. “Argo” has credibility because it is based on true events, which makes it all the more fantastic.
The film has a great ability to mix suspense with comedic relief. The film does well at still keeping the viewer in suspense despite the possibility of the audience having knowledge of the outcome of events. One of the most surprising aspects of the film is its sense of humor. The dialogue is surprisingly quick and witty, never getting dull or boring to the audience. This is aided by the actors’ sense of comedic timing.
The actors bringing this story to life all turn in great performances. Ben Affleck delivers what may be the best performance of his career in this film. Alan Arkin and John Goodman steal every scene they are in. They have wonderful comedic timing, and the rapid dialogue between them and Affleck is great. Brian Cranston turns in a great performance as Mendez’s superior, Jack O’Donnell. The rest of the cast does great as well, but these are the standouts from an already wonderful cast.
Amazing story and acting aside, the technical aspects of this film are equally impressive. Some of the shots of Tehran are absolutely beautiful. Some of the more enjoyable scenes are the ones that recreate actual historic footage from the period. The film also employs an excellent use of actual archival news and television footage from the period to immerse the viewer in the events. The costuming and makeup also contribute to this immersion.
“Argo” is definitely worth seeing. It may be the first genuine Oscar contender of the year. Not a single scene in this film fails to entertain. It is a great retelling of one of the most tense periods of the last century. This film easily scores five stars out of five.