An early frontrunner for Best Picture, Ben Affleck has topped his excellent The Town with Argo, a serious, heavy drama about the efforts to rescue 6 people who escaped the overrun Iranian embassy in 1980. Unintentionally timely (with the current events dealing with the attack on an embassy in Libya), Affleck has crafted a fantastic film that balances story, character and historical significance, and deserves every accolade it is given.
Affleck stars as Tony Mendez, a CIA operative who specializes in extracting Americans from dangerous situations through unconventional means. His dedication to his job has strained his relationship with his family, however,
The movie begins with a historically-accurate telling of the circumstances that lead to the rise in power of a corrupt puppet of an Iranian leader—backed by the United States—and the pain that caused the nation. What’s remarkable is that Affleck doesn’t pick a side in his movie, treating none of the parties as victims or villains. By keeping this balance the movie is able to tell the story without falling into easy oversimplifications, heightening the tension of the situation.
Affleck calls in every favor he’s ever been owed to pack the cast with fantastic actors, top-to-bottom. Bryan Cranston, John Goodman, Alan Arkin, Titus Welliver and Rory Cochrane are just a few of the familiar names and faces who contribute to this period piece, and the movie is better for it.
While Argo is being marketed with a comedic tone, focusing on the plot to create a fictional production company to make a fake sci-fi movie in order to get into Iran, the movie is far more expansive and comprehensive than that. There are long stretches of tense drama where there is nary a smile cracked, and while Goodman and Arkin provide needed comedy relief they are used in limited quantities to maximize their impact.
A comprehensive portrait of a crucial time in American history that should well be remembered by today’s political class, Argo is never pedantic but instead honest in telling its story. Well-paced, acted, constructed and designed, I have nothing but praise for Argo.
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