It’s 1979 Tehran. Student revolutionaries are protesting in the streets outside the U.S. embassy demanding the return of the Shah from the United States. The crowd becomes unruly, breaks through security, and storms the embassy. The result was the Iranian hostage crisis in which 52 Americans were held captive for 444 days, eventually leading to the fall of the Jimmy Carter administration. What wasn’t well known for years, though, was that six staffers slipped out a back way and managed to make their way to the home of the Canadian ambassador. The dilemma for the U.S. government -- how to get the six staffers out of Iran without tipping off the revolutionaries -- is the premise for Ben Affleck’s riveting new film, ARGO
Affleck directs and stars in this historical escape thriller based on the true story of CIA operative Tony Mendez’ brazen entry into Tehran to extract the six Americans safely before the Iranians become aware of their whereabouts. The result is an intense, engaging, edge-of-your-seat movie in which Affleck deftly and convincingly portrays the serious, confident, no-nonsense Mendez who is determined to rescue the six Americans.
The problem is coming up with a viable plan. The “best bad idea” that Mendez and his cronies in the CIA can devise is to have Mendez enter the country as a Canadian filmmaker searching for locations for a new film. First things first, though, is that you need a film to shoot, so Mendez jets off to California seeking the assistance of Hollywood producer Lester Siegel (Alan Arkin) and makeup artist John Chambers (John Goodman). The result is a campy science-fiction thriller titled ARGO giving Mendez his back-story he needs desolate locations for the space adventure.
The remainder of the film is a taut, tension-building race against the clock and the Iranian revolutionaries. Affleck keeps the emotions of the six captives in the forefront throughout the clandestine adventure along with the determination of the Iranians to find them.
Affleck’s attention to detail in this period piece is meticulous right down to the over-sized wire-rimmed glasses and bushy mustaches. The viewer is transported to 1979 immediately and stays there throughout the film. And while there are a number of very solid performances from the cast, Affleck clearly makes this an ensemble piece in which the story drives the film. The exceptions are veterans Arkin and Goodman who add a bit of witty patriotism and professionalism to the mix. Also notable is Kyle Chandler who plays a completely nonplussed Hamilton Jordan who can’t seem to get a handle on Mendez.
ARGO is a very watchable, enjoyable film. Definitely a a grade of A from this reviewer.