Monday, October 15, 2012

ARGO (2012)

Rated: R

Stars: Ben Affleck, Bryan Cranston, John Goodman, Alan Arkin
Director: Ben Affleck
Genre: Suspense/Thriller

Argo is a real film and a fake film. The fake film is what the real film is about. Ben Affleck does a masterful job of directing the real film, including himself in the pivotal role. (It must have been weird to see him do his split-second switch from actor to director, yelling "CUT" right after delivering his own lines.)  

The fake film Argo is a cover story to spirit six American diplomats out of Iran during the infamous hostage crisis that began in late 1979 and continued on into 1981. Having overthrown the corrupt Shah,  Islamic militants are hungry to have his head on a platter, but he has been given asylum in the U.S. The American embassy has been stormed and fifty-two Americans have been taken  hostage.  But six others have managed to evade capture and are given shelter in the home of the Canadian ambassador. However,  it's only a matter of time before they are sniffed out and meet a truly unpleasant fate.

Tony Mendez (Ben Affleck) is a CIA guy who heads to Iran with the hair-brained scheme (but the best one they have) of turning the six fugitives into Canadian crew members of  the nonexistent  movie--supposedly to be filmed in Iran--to get them out of where they are holed up and on a plane to freedom.   

Affleck and company--with special kudos to the editing and music score--deftly ratchet up the tension and suspense throughout Argo, keeping us on the edge of our gooey gummy seats (don't reach underneath there) from start to finish.  

With any film that is "based upon a true story," as is this one, you can expect a certain amount of embellishment of the truth and dramatic license to be taken, and there is a goodly amount of that in Argo.  But when you look into how the real events of this joint Canadian-CIA operation unfolded, (which weren't revealed publicly until years after the fact) you will see where a little tinkering with the truth was necessary to end up with a film as compelling as Argo. 

Now, let me pander a little to the conspiracy theorist lurking somewhere in all of us. Is it just coincidence, or just COULD it be the timing of this movie's release is designed to coincide with the stirring up of anti-Iranian paranoia over that country's impending nuclear capabilities,  and with Israel ostensibly on the brink of making a preemptive strike? Ya gotta sell it to the public, ya know,  just like some people think the "unthinkable"--that 9/11 was staged to provide our government a rationale for the invasion of  Iraq. 

Well,  I'll leave that kind of speculation up to you. But as they say in the world of comedy: Timing is everything.

Grade:  A -