Argo is an intense, true life espionage thriller that draws eerie parallels to today’s anti-American climate, while also adding a laugh or two at the expense of Hollywood.
The director and star of Argo is Ben Affleck. It’s hard to believe ten years ago the once second half of “Bennifer” was a pariah amongst movie fans. Now with his third directing feature Affleck has secured his place as one of the best filmmakers in the current cinema landscape.
Like all great filmmakers, it’s the ability to sniff out a great story that places Affleck in that upper echelon. In the case of Argo it is recently declassified intelligence documents that describe the CIA’s rescue of six American’s hiding in the Iran capital of Tehran, after their embassy was besieged by hostile Iranian citizens.
After an opening credit sequence that explains the severity and history of the political situation (done with nifty storyboards), an intense sequence depicting the hostile takeover of the American embassy sets the tone for the gripping atmosphere and stakes at hand for this group of men and women who are trapped in a city with no escape.
Enter CIA field agent Tony Mendez (Affleck with shaggy ‘70s haircut and beard), a specialist in such tricky situations who comes up with the idea of flying into Iran as a film producer looking for an exotic locale for a sci-fi movie called (you guessed it) “Argo”, and flying out with the six American’s posing as his film crew.
While Affleck does a great job in delivering grip-your-seat cinema during the Iran scenes, it is the moments where his character navigates the sleazy, ego driven world of Hollywood as guided by Alan Arkin’s big time producer (the Oscar winner delivering the best lines in a scene stealing performance) that gives proof to his standing as a great director, with his seamless melding of intense thrills in Tehran and biting humour in California making for a wholly satisfying movie.
Perhaps most important of all Affleck has delivered a significant film that revealed a long secret chapter in American intelligence history. With its eerie parallels to the violent anti-American actions in today’s Middle East, it is refreshing to see a prominent figure in Hollywood’s “left” put down the punching gloves and give the CIA a well-deserved – yet un-jingoistic – pat on the back for a dangerous job well done.
While Argo is not set in Affleck’s beloved hometown of Boston (as was Gone Baby Gone and The Town) here he is at his most homely, commenting on his beloved politics and taking the piss out of the industry he works in.
Three films in and not only has Affleck gotten better as a filmmaker, but he’s also wiser as a man. Now we can officially place "Bennifer" away as a nightmare from another galaxy.