Ben Affleck leaps on to the A-list of directors with this relentlessly entertaining thriller, combining comedy and nerve-jangling suspense to maximum effect. Based on a declassified story that's unbelievable but true, the film is also clear-eyed about politics without ever getting lost in the big issues. Instead, it keeps us engaged through terrific characters who are beautifully played by a lively cast.
As Iran's 1979 revolution boiled over into street protests over America's assistance to the deposed Shah, rioters stormed the US embassy and took 52 Americans hostage. In the chaos, six staffers snuck out the back door and took refuge in the home of the Canadian ambassador (Garber). With the Iranians on their trail, the CIA chief (Cranston) decides to try to get them out, and Agent Tony Mendez (Affleck) comes up with a wild idea: he creates a fake sci-fi movie called Argo with the help of a veteran producer (Arkin) and an Oscar-winning make-up artist (Goodman), so the six escapees can pose as a Canadian location-scouting crew and leave the country.
Yes, this plan sounds utterly ridiculous, but the fake Argo is exactly the kind of cheesy Star Wars rip-off everyone was trying to make at the time, so the idea of scouting colourful Iranian locations isn't as far-fetched as it seems. And screenwriter Terrio keeps us laughing as Mendez and his Hollywood cohorts concoct this elaborate scam. These scenes are so good that Arkin and Goodman walk off with the whole movie, giving loose, witty supporting turns that are likely to be remembered in awards season. Affleck gets in on the fun as well, then also effortlessly takes on the more intense action scenes to hold the whole film together.
The fact that this story was a state secret means that we never know what might happen next, which adds a kick of unpredictability to the suspenseful final act. Although it does feel somewhat cranked up by every movie trick in the book, from power music to manic cross-cutting. But as a director Affleck directs it with real skill, crafting a politically aware action thriller that's also one of the most enjoyable romps of the year.
Run time: 120 mins
In Theaters: Friday 12th October 2012
Box Office USA: $136.0M
Box Office Worldwide: $232.3M
Distributed by: Warner Bros. Pictures
Production compaines: Smokehouse Pictures, Warner Bros Pictures, GK Films
Contactmusic.com: 4.5 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 96%
Fresh: 255 Rotten: 11
IMDB: 7.8 / 10
Director: Ben Affleck
Screenwriter: Chris Terrio
Starring: Ben Affleck as Tony Mendez, Bryan Cranston as Jack O'Donnell, Alan Arkin as Lester Siegel, John Goodman as John Chambers, Victor Garber as Ken Taylor, Tate Donovan as Bob Anders, Clea DuVall as Cora Lijek, Scoot McNairy as Joe Stafford, Rory Cochrane as Lee Schatz, Christopher Denham as Mark Lijek, Kerry Bishé as Kathy Stafford, Kyle Chandler as Hamilton Jordan, Chris Messina as Malinov, Željko Ivanek as Robert Pender, Titus Welliver as Bates, Richard Kind as Max Klein, Mark Rhino Smith as Evil Villain, Taylor Schilling as Christine Mendez, Keith Szarabajka as Adam Engell, Bob Gunton as Cyrus Vance, Page Leong as Pat Taylor, Omid Abtahi as Reza Borhani, Sheila Vand as Sahar, Karina Logue as Elizabeth Ann Swift, Ryan Ahern as Sgt. Sickmann, Bill Tangradi as Alan B. Golacinski, Jamie McShane as William J. Daugherty, Roberto Garcia as Sgt. William Gallegos, Christopher Stanley as Thomas L. Ahern, Jon Woodward Kirby as Fred Kupke, Victor McCay as Malick, Matt Nolan as Peter Genco, J.R. Cacia as Brice, Bill Kalmenson as Hal Saunders, Rob Brownstein as Landon Butler, David Sullivan as Jon Titterton, John Boyd as Lamont, Yuriy Sardarov as Rossi, Nikka Far as Tehran Mary, Aidan Sussman as Ian Mendez, Barry Livingston as David Marmor, Ali Saam as Ali Khalkhali, Araz Vahid Ebrahim Nia as Moradi, Scott Anthony Leet as The Minotaur, Michael Parks as Jack Kirby, Mehrdad Sarlak as Immigration Officer, Ray Haratian as Immigration Officer, Matthew Glave as Col. Charles W. Scott, Nancy Stelle as Swissair Flight Attendant
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