July 14, 2013


Ben Affleck, 2012

Past Oscar-winner Ben Affleck directs this Period piece about the 1979 Iranian hostage crisis. After the United States grants asylum to cancer stricken leader Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, the streets of Iran erupt in chaos. Demonstrators storm the U.S. embassy demanding the U.S. return the Shah. Most of the State Department workers are held hostage but 6 manage to escape to the Canadian Ambassador's secured home. Without a lot options, they decide to send Tony Mendez (Affleck) into Iran as a Canadian filmmaker who will be scouting locations with his 6 cast-mates for a Sci-Fi film titled Argo. This will give him an opportunity to get the hostages out of the country with fake Canadian passports.

Affleck's film-making abilities really shine in this taut Thriller, with a lot of help from Cinematographer Rodrigo Prieto (Babel, 21 Grams, Brokeback Mountain). It's a very nice looking film that plays on tension and shifting viewpoints to keep things moving along. Remarkable Cinematography combined with a Time-appropriate soundtrack, the transitional shots with the 70's rock (such as Van Halen's "Dance the Night Away" playing as actors in costume prepare for a table read) are well-placed and give you a break from the tensity.

I've always said that Affleck is better behind the camera than in front of it, but he is effective as Tony Mendez because its a character naturally calm and collected that really doesn't call for a lot of range. Some of the tense moments are reminiscent of fellow political thriller Zero Dark Thirty, but Argo ultimately stands out on its own. Those who may be skeptical that the story itself may feel dull will be surprised. Ample time spent on the protests, to the State Department contemplating their next move, to the Hollywood prep, and then ultimately putting the mission into action. The multiple perspectives only add to the detail. You're seeing things through the eyes of the Iranians, hostages, Argo production staff, State Department, and the American citizens. All of which come well-placed with adequate time spent with each.

Probably my favorite scene in the film is the scene with the VW bus moving through the crowd. It's so tense and well shot; you are literally sitting in the vehicle with them with your heart beating in unison as the Iranian hands pound on the glass windows in a symphony of anger. Some of the comedic elements also give you a nice break as well. Alan Arkin as Lester Siegel, the vocal foul-mouthed producer, and John Goodman as John Chambers, the talented Hollywood make-up artist. The clouds of cigarette smoke and bad eyeglass frames only add to the authenticity. Keep your eyes peeled at the end credits for photographs of the actual people involved with their Hollywood counterparts which was very interesting to see. "Argo f$%# yourself"!

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