A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Argo is based on the true story of a daring covert rescue mission, carried out by CIA operative Tony Mendez (played by Ben Affleck, who also directs), during the 1979 Iranian hostage crisis. A few scenes feature unruly mobs and dead bodies, and there are some extremely tense sequences during the escape, but there's not much actual on-screen violence. Other issues include swearing (there's quite a bit, including "f--k" and "s--t") and several scenes that show people smoking and drinking during social occasions.
What's the story?
When Iranian militants storm the U.S. embassy in Tehran in 1979, taking 52 Americans hostage, six manage to escape, taking refuge at the home of the Canadian ambassador. There they stay, safe but trapped, until CIA agent Tony Mendez (Ben Affleck, who also directs) concocts an audacious rescue plan. First, he heads to Hollywood, where he recruits two movie-industry veterans (Alan Arkin and John Goodman) to help set up a fake film production. Then he hops on a plane to Iran, in the guise of a Canadian producer scouting desert locations for a sci-fi flick called ARGO. The mission -- "the best bad idea we've got," as one official describes it -- is to fly the entire group out on a commercial flight by convincing the Iranian military that they're all part of the film crew.
Is it any good?
Affleck is well on his way to becoming a masterful director; with a steady hand and a sure vision, he guides Argo like a conductor leading a virtuoso orchestra. His actors are sublime; the casting, save for one notable exception (see below), genius. (Arkin reminds us what acting should be.) And the pacing is exquisite, recalling such classics as Dog Day Afternoon and The Marathon Man.
Affleck's decisions, from imbuing Argo with a circa-1970s patina to splicing real news footage in between re-created scenes, are flawless ... except for one glaring error: casting himself. He's solid here, but he's not transcendent. And that's not OK, not in a film of this caliber. Argo needs an actor who reverberates without saying a single word. A secondary storyline about Mendez' family life is a sweet detour, but a distraction, too. Nonetheless, Argo is a thriller that nearly stands up to the best of them.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the fact that the whole Argo mission is built around a huge deception. Why is it OK to lie in this situation? Are there other times that it's OK?
Some Canadians are apparently miffed that their participation in the rescue has been minimized in the film. When it comes to portraying real-life events, should Hollywood hew to the historic accounts? Or does entertainment trump accuracy?
Are the characters role models? What about the "bad guys"? How are they portrayed? How might this story play out differently if it had been made in another country?
- In theaters: October 12, 2012
- On DVD or streaming: February 19, 2013
- Cast: Alan Arkin, Ben Affleck, John Goodman
- Director: Ben Affleck
- Studio: Warner Bros.
- Genre: Thriller
- Topics: History
- Run time: 120 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: language and some violent images
- Awards/Honors: Academy Award, Golden Globe
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