Argo (2012) Review by Shivom Oza – Enlightening, Entertaining and Engaging!
Based on a true story, ‘Argo’ is about six Americans, who although escape from being held as hostages at the U.S. embassy in Tehran, have to find refuge in the home of Canadian ambassador, Ken Taylor. The film is about the rescue operations undertaken for these six American diplomats.
The film is an absolute must-watch. The cast, that looks amazingly similar to the real men and women involved in the crisis, delivers first-rate performances. Ben Affleck gives a fine performance as an actor and shines as a director.
The year is 1979. During the ongoing Iranian revolution, Islamic ‘revolutionaries’ (or the terrorists as the Unites States refers to them as) take over the U.S. embassy in Tehran. This action is in retaliation for the support given to their recently-deposed Shah by the U.S. While sixty-odd diplomats are taken as hostages, six of them (four men and two women) evade capture and find a hide-out in the home of the Canadian ambassador Ken Taylor (Victor Garber). No one, except the State Department back home in the U.S., knows about the situation of the six escapees. They then begin to explore options of getting them out of Iran. CIA operative Tony Mendez (Ben Affleck) comes up with a rather improbable idea. It strikes him while watching the sci-fi film ‘Battle for the Planet of the Apes’ that they can create a cover-up that the escapees are Canadian filmmakers, hunting for locations in Iran for a film called ‘Argo’.
So Mendez and his supervisor Jack O’ Donnell (Bryan Cranston), along with a Hollywood make-up artist John Chambers (John Goodman) and producer Lester Siegel (Alan Arkin), hatch out a plan to start creating buzz around this cover-up movie. They set up a fake studio for this fake film and even hold a presser to get the media to talk about it. Back in Tehran, the situation gets all the more serious as the revolutionaries find out that there have been escapees. They have been trying to put back the shredded documentation that they found at the embassy to look for vital information, the identities of the escapees in particular.
So Mendez enters Iran anyway carrying fake identities, fake film material, fake passports and fake documents. Will the six hostages get rescued? Will Mendez leave them in the lurch? Will the U.S. government ditch the seven Americans stranded in Tehran?
‘Argo’ is a superb ‘political’ film. The scenes, the locations, the props, the body language, the characterization and the costumes are absolutely circa 1979. The best thing about the film is that while it is based on a true incident, there is not too much of ‘history’ and ‘trivia’ thrown in consciously. All the important bits of information are brilliantly etched into the screenplay so there is no need to ‘educate’ the audience with needless narrations and overlaying text. The on-goings within the U.S. government, the state of the film industry, condition of the people living in Tehran, all of these aspects are portrayed in a very realistic manner. None of this takes away from the ‘suspense’ element in the story. There is no blatant stereotyping. The predicament of all sides has been handled in a very delicate manner. This film is a delight not just for its brilliant performances and gripping screenplay, but also the important bits of history that it provides.
The casting of the film is first-rate. Not a single actor/actress looks/seems unfit for the role that they play. Right from the look to the dialogue delivery to the body language, the cast gets it right! Ben Affleck is brilliant as Tony Mendez. The actors, who play the six escapees, are also superb. The best dialogues have been given to the make-up artist-producer combo played by John Goodman and Alan Arkin. Alan has some hilarious lines in the film. Most of them are take-offs on the film industry. In a tense, dramatic film, such moments provide the much-needed comic relief.
The screenplay (Chris Terrio) is engaging, realistic and has a fine mix of drama, subtlety and humor. Director Ben Affleck superbly gets it all together on the screen. The scenes are very well-written. In most of the scenes, silence has been used fantastically. Joshuah Bearman, who wrote the article ‘Escape from Tehran’, has also been credited as a writer. Overall, the film excels wonderfully in the writing department. The music by Alexandre Despat is splendid. After ‘Moonrise Kingdom’, he scores yet another winner.
One of the best films, based on real-life accounts, made in recent times. Enlightening, entertaining and engaging, ‘Argo’ is a must-watch!
What other families should know
Great role models
Too much violence
Too much swearing
Too much consumerism
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking