Arts & Entertainment - Movie Review - Argo

If Argo doesn’t get an Oscar or at least get nominated for an Oscar, then it confirms the popular theory that the Academy Awards are fixed.
Ben Affleck (rocking a 1970s beard and shaggy head of hair) does triple duty as actor, producer, and director. Argo is based on a true story during the Iran Hostage Crisis in 1979 when a group of Islamic militants hijacked the American Embassy in Tehran, Iran in support of the Iranian Revolution, taking 52 Americans hostage. They were held captive for 444 harrowing days – from Nov. 4, 1979 to Jan. 20, 1981, which was the day President Ronald Reagan was sworn into office.
However, on Nov. 4, 1979, six U.S. diplomats evaded capture during the siege of the embassy and eventually hid in the house of Canadian Ambassador Ken Taylor (Victor Garber, who had an uncredited role in 2010’s The Town, which was directed by Affleck. He also played the father of Jennifer Garner – Affleck’s wife – on the 2001-06 spy series Alias).
The U.S. government realized it had to get those six people out of Iran, but couldn’t come up with a foolproof plan to extract them. Enter CIA specialist Tony Mendez (Affleck), who cooked up the idea that the six were members of a Canadian movie crew that was scouting locations in Iran for a science-fiction movie. Mendez’s idea was “the best bad idea” on a long list of bad ideas and it was approved.
To pull it off, Mendez needed his plan to appear authentic, so he recruited special effects wizard John Chambers (John Goodman, The Big Lebowski) and director Lester Siegel (Little Miss Sunshine’s Alan Arkin, who has a blast with the role and chews up the scenery) to make a movie that they really won’t make. They optioned a script called Argo, a space opera where its futuristic architecture had a Middle-Eastern feel.
After getting the necessary backing and getting positive press, Mendez headed to Tehran to get the six people out himself. All of them weren’t on board with the movie idea and the cover identities created for them. However, Mendez told one of the six his plan was the only thing between him and a bullet to his head.
Even though we know how the movie ends in what has been dubbed the “Canadian Caper” – a collaboration between the CIA and the Canadian government – you can still feel the palpable fear and tension emanating off Mendez and the six people in his charge. You are afraid for them.
A nice bonus is at the end photos of the actual historical figures are displayed side-by-side the actors playing them. Garber is a dead ringer for Taylor. The same thing for Kyle Chandler (TV’s Friday Night Lights), who plays Hamilton Jordan, President Jimmy Carter’s Chief of Staff. Interestingly enough, the only historical figure and actor who look nothing alike are Mendez and Affleck, but that’s nothing to worry about.
Another tidbit worth noting is the details of this operation were classified until President Bill Clinton declassified it in 1997, thus making it public. This and many other facts are disclosed at the end.
Affleck does a phenomenal job capturing the flavor of that era – the clothing (the bell bottoms and wide butterfly collars), the technology (there weren’t any cell phones or Internet back then, just landlines with long cords) smoking (it was not uncommon to light up in office buildings and airplanes, something that is taboo today), and airport protocol (this is 21 years before 9/11 and there would have been no way Mendez’s plan would’ve worked in today). He is a stickler for detail. Affleck – like Clint Eastwood – is a much better director than he is an actor. He excels himself directing this film, which is already starting to generate some Oscar buzz.

GRADE: A–

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