Argo has been one of the most successful movies of 2012 and after finally seeing it for myself, I know why. Starring Ben Affleck, Alan Arkin, John Goodman, Victor Garber and Bryan Crantson, the movie tells the true story of the outrageous plan the CIA used to rescue six Americans from Iran in 1979. Affleck also directs and he has crafted an amazing thriller that stays true to the source, while still being a funny and exciting movie. Watch the trailer after the jump and then read my review.
As the trailer shows, this is an exciting movie from beginning to end. The script is based on a novel, The Master of Disguise, which was written by Affleck’s character, Tony Mendez. It has been adjusted slightly, but having a first hand account as the source adds a great deal of credibility to the movie. The story line is pretty straight forward, yet it keeps you completely engaged for the entire two hours. It opens with the storming of the US embassy by Iranian protesters, and the intensity never stops.
Affleck mixes in real footage with his own in a creative way. They flow seamlessly together, yet have a slightly different colour balance that shows the separation.In the credits, they show some shots he even replicated from the news, including the burning of an American flag and the Iranians driving with their guns. You can tell Affleck tried really hard to be accurate and that work paid off.
The key to the escape involves creating a fake movie company and the stars of those scenes are Goodman and Arkin. Goodman plays real life special effects artist John Chambers, who won an Oscar for Planet of the Apes and was a big part of the plan. Arkin plays a fictional producer named Lester Siegel, and is really funny. But he didn’t exist.
This is where things get confusing. Even with the first-hand account source material, they are still able to add a fictional character to the plot, a character who plays an important part in getting the project off the ground. It’s really strange, but since I didn’t know this until I was researching for this review, it didn’t ruin my experience watching Argo.The only theory I can think of is to give Goodman’s Chambers someone to talk to when Mendez was in Iran. If that’s the case, it was a good idea that made me laugh many times.
Even though his character is fictional, Arkin does a great job. He is funny, vulgar and bluntly teaches Mendez about Hollywood. For a thriller, the act in Hollywood is an excellent break between two intense moments. Goodman and Arkin should do a buddy comedy because they play off each other so well. Both have great one liners and insults towards the movie business. There aren’t that many scenes with them, not as many as the trailer would have you believe. But they are all great.
Victor Garber plays Ken Taylor, the Canadian Ambassador for Iran who let the six hostages live in his house while they hid. One thing Affleck made sure to include in the film was acknowledging the Canadians involved and Garber’s performance does the role justice. He is tough, funny and brave, just like Ken Taylor. As a Canadian, the movie makes Canada look better than any Canadian stereotype Americans may have. Affleck and Garber deserve all the accolades they are getting for their Canadian tribute.
Affleck as Mendez also gives good performance. Knowing that this is a real story written by Mendez adds an element to the role that shows how brave he was. He doesn’t show emotion (except with his son) and takes everything serious. His entire performance is careful and calculating and it feels like Affleck is trying to solve the puzzle in real-time along with the audience. His direction is more award worthy, but his performance is really good too.
Argo is one of the best movies of 2012. It combines the best parts of comedies and thrillers to tell a real story. And that is the element that really sets this apart. If it was entirely fictional, it would still be good. But the fact that this actually happened makes it so much more. I highly recommend this movie and it has a good chance of winning Best Picture at the Oscars this year.