Argo– Movie Review
I am legally obliged to use the word “tense” in reviewing Ben Affleck‘s based-on-a-true-story tale of a clandestine CIA operation during the Iran hostage crisis of 1979. And indeed my heart was pounding as the “exfiltration” built to its conclusion- but basic knowledge of world events undercut the suspense, as I rested relatively sure that I knew what was going to happen. Argo is a great story well told, with cutting dialogue, subtle acting, and an attention to historic detail and set dressing. But what you see is what you get- the audience doesn’t have to guess at what’s going on or who the good guys are. In this sense, I would call Argo a great adventure, or even heist film, but not a true spy movie.
Argo follows Tony Mendez (Affleck), a stone-faced CIA agent who specializes in getting valuable personnel out of hot situations. When the Agency learns that six embassy workers are hiding in the Canadian Ambassador’s home, he invents the elaborate cover story of a Canadian sci-fi Hollywood film; with the help of an Oscar-winning Hollywood insider, he establishes a production company, buys a script, and gets publicity. Flying into Iran to “scout locations,” Mendez plans to fly out with the Americans posing as his Canadian film crew.
Though Affleck’s politicking can be heavy handed at times- emphasizing the CIA-backed coup of 1953, juxstaposing the media circuses of Tehran, Washington, and Hollywood- it is to his credit that he piles so much into an adventure film. (Although be careful about taking too much history from here- the producers apparently gave the story its own Hollywood treatment.) The hostage crisis is terrifying because the embassy workers are given such a human side: they are confused and unsure, they seem as shocked as anyone to be overrun. The opening scenes of the embassy being stormed were especially unsettling in light of the Sept. 11 attacks in Benghazi.
But in the end, the good guys wear white and the hero gets the girl.
Did you see Argo? What did you think?