Director: Ben Affleck
Starring: Ben Affleck, Bryan Cranston, John Goodman, Alan Arkin, Clea DuVall
Some will argue that Argo downplays the story’s Canadian content, but that’s irrelevant when taking into account the fine filmmaking. Like any good thriller, Argo leaves you contorting your body in anticipation of what’s to come.
After Islamic militants storm the American embassy in Iran, six diplomats escape to the Canadian ambassador’s house and cannot leave for they are sure to be detected and persecuted. Tony Mendez, (Ben Affleck), of the CIA devises a plan with the help of Hollywood makeup artist John Chambers (John Goodman). The plan is simple—the six diplomats that need to be rescued will be passed off as part of a movie crew scouting locations for a new film, Argo. The fake film secures an acclaimed producer and receives the approval of Tony’s supervisor Jack O’Donnell (Bryan Cranston). The plan is set in motion and the tension begins.
The film starts off fast with the takeover of the embassy, thrusting the audience into the problem of the film. The main conflict of the film lingers as the narrative explains the plan and its resolution, but as everyone knows, good ideas in theory can be painfully hard to execute. Saving these six diplomats is no exception, and the film shoots forward in pacing, speeding up as the climax grows nearer. The speed of the film alone is enough to make anyone invested in the story and the fate of the diplomats.
The story is also engaging, with plenty of suspense and enough humor sprinkled throughout to keep some scenes light. A subplot involving Tony’s crumbling family life, however, feels slightly out of place in the film, but due to the quality of the main story that is forgivable.
Affleck’s directorial efforts are successful as well. He creates an environment in Iran that works perfectly with bleak shots—a limp body hanging from a crane or a car that has been burning far too long. He also skillfully blends in stock footage of the time with the more modern footage of this decade.
The lead actors in Argo deliver great performances, including Cranston, whose fury in the film’s climax makes you buckle in your seat, or Goodman who emanates inherent warmth. The true stars of the film, however, are the six hostages who provide a kind of realism their natural, sincere reactions in the face of danger make the film authentic.
Argo is one of those films that grabs you at the beginning and never lets go. Tightly directed by Affleck, and superbly-acted throughout, this film will surely be recognized this award season.