Hollywood's Real-Life Political Thriller
This movie is based on a real covert rescue mission to bring home six displaced Americans who narrowly escaped being taken prisoner during the Iran hostage crisis. The plan? A CIA operative poses as a Canadian film producer and flies to Iran to do some location scouting and meet up with his “film crew.” Ben Affleck directs and stars in what may be one of the most thrilling movies of the year.
5 Stars: Perfect for intellectual thrill-seekers
The movie opens with late 1970s comic book-style graphics detailing one of the best explanations of America’s turbulent history with Iran that I’ve ever seen. It puts the audience immediately into that time period, and for those who weren’t around then, succinctly catches them up.
Cut to massive protests outside the American embassy in Iran as monitored by the dozens of Americans inside the building. As the riots grow increasingly violent, it becomes clear the Americans are sitting ducks.
There are six Americans, however, who band together and decide not to quack. Instead, they discreetly exit the building out a door that has so far gone undetected by the angry mob.
As the angry protestors storm the embassy, brutally taking 52 hostages, the six fugitives manage to make it to the home of the Canadian Ambassador (Victor Garber), where they know the Iranian government will eventually ferret them out.
Tony Mendez (Ben Affleck), a father in a strained marriage, is the best CIA operative there is. If anyone can save these six people, it’s him -- but even he doesn’t like his chances.
That’s when inspiration hits. Watching Planet of the Apes on TV, he notices the stark, rocky location where the show is taking place. He decides his cover will be scouting locations for a movie in Iran -- risky, sure, but no one at the CIA has a better idea.
Mendez goes to Hollywood where he hooks up with his old friend John Chambers (John Goodman), a special effects artist for films. John agrees to help and gets seasoned producer Lester Seigel (Alan Arkin) on board as well. The first step? Get a script.
Once they discover a draft of a futuristic, planet-hopping sci-fi adventure film called Argo, they're on their way. The “filmmakers” go to great lengths to make Argo look like a real movie in production, including casting actors and getting the media to hype it up.
But on Mendez’s trip to Iran (with a fake Canadian passport) there are plenty of snags, including the Iranians discovering that six Americans have indeed escaped. The stakes are life and death.
One of the reasons this film is such a nail-biter is due to its extraordinary pacing. There are no lulls in Argo, only heart-pounding, jaw-dropping politically laced thrills. Affleck has confirmed he's a stellar director, understanding both character and suspenseful realism, and may reach the artistic heights of Warren Beatty.
Bottom line: Argo combines Hollywood’s surrealistic sense of humor with true-life political drama and will have you on the edge of your seat to the very end. Be sure to stay through the credits to see what Jimmy Carter has to say about the ordeal. Enjoy!
Photo credit: Warner Bros. Pictures