Argo a Realistic Thriller

Posted on November 7, 2012 by

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Argo begins with a powerful scene depicting chaos and confusion in a foreign land.  The U.S. embassy is raided by an angry mob in Iran in 1979. Six American ambassadors escape and take shelter at the Canadian ambassador’s house. They stay hunkered down for several months while, back in America, yellow ribbons are tied around trees to commemorate the hostages.

Ben Affleck has to get them back. He plays Tony Mendez, a CIA agent who is fully bearded and all.

He concocts a brilliantly bad idea to smuggle the hostages out of the country. This idea is to pretend his men are a Canadian film crew scouting locations to shoot in Iran.

“It’s the best bad idea we have,” Mendez says.

He goes to Hollywood to start working on the fake film. In these scenes, we’re treated to a good deal of comic relief, specifically from John Goodman, who plays John Chambers, a famous makeup artist, and Alan Arkin, playing a big shot producer. These lighter scenes contrast nicely with the chaos overseas.

In fact, Argo works just as well as an expose of the Hollywood studio system.  We get to see how movies are developed in addition to a depiction of Iran in the early 80s.

By balancing these two themes, Affleck is able to maintain a streak of dark humor and nail-biting tension that holds the film together. Everything moves along at a brisk pace, and a sense of urgency looms heavily, especially in the latter scenes.

It’s probably better to know less about the actual hostage crisis going into the film. Affleck and screenwriter Chris Terrio undoubtedly took artistic license with the story, but it’s still thrilling to see the events unfold on-screen. In other words, Argo avoids the cliché of a film that is based on real events but still maintains realism.

The entire cast, down to the smaller supporting roles, does a fantastic job of recreating the atmosphere of the time period. From CIA offices to Hollywood to a frantic Iranian airport, everything feels utterly realistic.

Affleck, who cast himself as the star, throws his weight the modestly. We get glimpses of his turbulent personal life but never enough to distract from the ultimate narrative of the film. He could have played the role as an over-the-top hero, but downplays his role instead, which adds to the realism of the film.

Argo is a film that is hard to find something worth nitpicking. Affleck offers a riveting political thriller, a dark comedy, and a sure-shot Oscar nominee.

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