Published: Friday, 19 October 2012 00:00
Rated R, 120 minutes
Review by Jana Hardy
The history of Persia, now Iran, has been defined by violence, revolution, and rulers being overthrown for centuries, for thousands of years. The 20th century was no exception. The Iranian or Islamic Revolution of 1979 successfully replaced the Shah with the Ayatollah Khomeini. The Shah and his wife fled the country on Jan. 16, 1979 to the US, where they were granted asylum, with Khomeini returning to Tehran, Iran on Feb. 1, 1979. He then became the divine figure and began consolidating his power with Iran coming 100 percent under Islamic rule.
The American support of the Shah resulted in the taking of 52 hostages on Nov. 4, 1979 from the American Embassy by the Ayatollah's revolutionaries. They were held as political prisoners for 444 days. Little did the radicals know initially that six Americans escaped, literally, out the back door of the Embassy and were granted a place to hide at the Canadian Ambassador's home. Argo is their story. It is true.
Produced, directed and starring Ben Affleck, this tense political thriller is one of my top movies of 2012. Affleck previously directed Gone Baby Gone and The Town. He is a skilled director and has done an amazing job of bringing together a stellar team of creative artists, in front of and behind the cameras. As an actor, Affleck has been recently seen in State of Play and The Company of Men.
Argo also stars Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad, Rock of Ages), Alan Arkin (Little Miss Sunshine), John Goodman (Treme, Trouble with the Curve), Victor Garber (Alias), Tate Donovan (Good Night and Good Luck) Clea DuVall (Conviction), Kyle Chandler (Friday Night Lights, Super 8), Chris Messina (The Newsroom, Julie and Julia, Damages, Away We Go), and Richard Kind (A Serious Man, Hereafter).
In order to "rescue" the six rogue Americans, Affleck, playing undercover CIA agent, Tony Mendez hatches a covert plot. His plan is to fly into Tehran, pretend he is a movie producer scouting locations for his film, Argo, a Star Wars-type action film. The 6 Americans will leave with him as his director, wardroom mistress, cameraman, and other movie production staff. To quote the movie, "It is the best crappy plan we have". The revolutionaries soon learn they are missing six Americans. They painstakingly start to have a team of kids glue together the shredded Embassy papers, trying to come upon the photos of the missing six.
This tense, political thriller is superbly edited by William Goldenberg (Seabiscuit, Gone Baby Gone, Domino, The Insider, Pleasantville). He has been nominated for two Oscars. The music was compiled and composed by Alexandre Desplat, a four-time Oscar nominee (The King's Speech, Moonrise Kingdom, The Tree of Life, Harry Potter #7 Part 2). The Director of Photography is one of my favorites, Rodrigo Prieto (21 Grams, State of Play, Babel). He has been nominated for an Oscar in the past.
Now Oscar nominations don't make you legit, better or my favorites. I just find all of their work excellent and this movie exceeded my expectations. There will be a gaggle of nominations next year for this film. Look for Ben and Jen on the red carpet. Just an FYI, Mr. Aflleck has won an Oscar for writing Good Will Hunting with his friend Matt Damon.
Much like United 93, we all know the ending of this film, or at least some of us old enough know the ending. However, the movie draws you into its web of suspense and tension. You don't breathe again until the last moments.
The movie is based upon an absolute true story. Affleck and his team (including co producer George Clooney) stayed true to history and the spirit of what makes an excellent film. "Just the facts ma'am," as well as great acting, great words, great direction and a great story.
Out of 5, it rates a 5.