Sunday, October 21, 2012
Argo: Escape from Tehran
The year is 1979. The U.S. embassy has been overrun by Iranians seeking vengeance against the deposed Shah, who has fled to the U.S. for surgical treatment. During the intense fray, six American officials escape the embassy and secretly take refuge in the home of the Canadian ambassador. Argo is the story of the CIA's plan to extract the six Americans that have gone into hiding--if they are found by the Iranians, they are sure to be taken and probably executed in a brutal and violent manner.
Luckily, the CIA has a creative force with a sense of humor: Tony Mendez (Affleck), a quiet and intense man who is a master at getting people out of tough situations. Mendez, thinking (way) outside the box, easily shoots down other official's ideas to try and covertly get the six out and comes up with a plan that is so absolutely insane that it might actually work: enlisting a movie make-up artist, John Chambers (John Goodman), and a film producer, Lester Siegel (Alan Arkin) to create a fake film, called Argo, concocting all of the aspects that the process involves (screenwriting, casting, a press release). Mendez, then posing as a producer himself, will fly to Tehren, meet up with the six hideways, and help them pose as a Canadian film crew scouting locations for futuristic, middle-eastern-set fake film.
Argo isn't perfect: the ending goes on and on, and it's somewhat predictable in places (as any real life story tends to be), but it has a magic that keeps your eyes glued to the cinema screen. At times, it reminded me of last year's Hugo, particularly in the way it shows how film can more than just a distraction for a couple of hours: it can cause a purpose in a person's life--or even save someone's life. No specific performance is amazingly special, though I did really enjoy Affleck's calm and funny portrayal of Mendez. But taken as a whole, everyone plays their small part to make the film one of the more enjoyable of the year. You probably know the ending to Argo, if you've read any articles on the film or have a good memory of recent U.S. history. However, the conclusion is only a small part of the fun and tension-covered journey. When Mendez takes the group out in public, to solidify their status as a Canadian film crew, dodging violence and gun-weilding revolutionaries, whether or not you know if they make it home doesn't matter: like most scenes in Argo, you'll be on the edge of your seat. (B+)