This is my first Ben Affleck directed movie. Still gotta watch Good Will Hunting. Geesh, for a film chick I really gotta catch up on my movies. Anyway, what’s Argo about?
Argo is based on the incredible true story (and I mean freaking incredible), set between 1979-1980 during the Iran hostage crisis: Iran is under invasion by Iranian revolutionaries and several Americans are taken hostage. Six Americans manage to escape and take refuge in the official residence of the Canadian Ambassador, so the CIA is ordered to get them out of the country. After a few failed options, a CIA agent and specialist extractor named Tony Mendez (played by Affleck himself) suggests a way to get them out. To change their identities into Canadian filmmakers location scouting for a movie. So he goes to Hollywood and with the help of famous prosthetics artist John Chambers (played by John Goodman) who worked on the prosthetics make-up of Planet of the Apes, a film producer named Leicester Siegel (played by Alan Arkin), and the co-operation of the Canadian film studio, they have to find a movie script, eventually settling into a science-fiction script named Argo, and then go through the actual process of promoting and producing the film for the Iranians to buy the story. Then it’s up to Mendez to go to Iran, masquerade the six Americans and himself into a Canadian film crew and safely get them out of the country. DANG… and I mean DANG.
The premise alone is enough for anyone to want to watch this film. They even make it clear at the end of the film that they weren’t exaggerating. So yeah, it’s a really good movie.
One of the things that the film did very well was the tension. The characters know that if something goes wrong, one mess-up or flop, if they’re spotted, they WILL get caught instantly. The plan itself doesn’t sound fantastic either, so that brings up more uncertainty. The scenes of the last half where the Americans need to play their parts on broad daylight are the most tense. Especially one scene where they’re in a car and have to get through a crowd of angry citizens. That just gave me chills! The film is very aware of that, but they also take into account at how crazy the plan sounds. The lighter moments come mostly from the first half where the guys are producing the movie, which would have been like a Star War rip-off or something. They had to go through the actual process of producing a film (without the filming itself) in order to make it seem all real, from storyboards, to the casting, posters, promotions, press conferences, etc (now I’m kinda curious to know how the film would have been like if it were actually made). Alan Arkin as Siegel and John Goodman as Chambers create great comic relief characters, and especially give out very funny comments about the film industry and how they’re gonna have to produce the fake movie like a real project. An example of this includes this funny piece of dialogue:
CHAMBERS: So you want to come to Hollywood, act like a big shot…
CHAMBERS: … without actually doing anything?
CHAMBERS: You’ll fit right in!
Hey, that does seem to say a lot about the Hollywood industry. Anyway, and who can’t forget the quote that everybody remembers, said in the film by Arkin first: “Ar-go-f***-yourself”!
Either way, nobody is entirely certain this plan will work, not even Mendez himself. We can see that he’s a patient man, but even in missions like these he’s under a lot of stress. After all, he’s carrying a HUGE responsibility and he has to have enough courage to risk his own life and safety. It’s up to him to try to make these six Americans work with the plan, to get them safely out of the country and, most of all, for them to trust him. Even if this plan sounds insane, it’s the best plan they’ve got. We are given enough backstory about Mendez, and even of the six hostages, to know and care about these characters and what will happen next.
This is a film about knowing who to trust and how to control the truth when the situation needs to, even if it means to keep secrets and conceal the truth, and it constantly brings up politics and the role of the media very well in relation to these aspects. If you want a film that puts you on the edge of your seat, this is a film that does so. I wouldn’t hesitate to view it again, and I’m really glad I watched it. Now I’m really interested in watching Good Will Hunting, because Ben Affleck seems like a really good director. The film was brilliantly directed, it has an amazing cast, it has interesting subtexts, there’s a perfect balance between humour and tension, the pacing of the story is perfect, and the story is just a thrilling tale. I highly recommend Argo.
What else can I say, but… Ar-go-f***-yourself!