Argo Movie Review
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.