Argo is a movie telling two parallel stories. It is a political thriller about the hostage crisis in Iran 1979. It is also the story of the building of a hoax. A grand smoke screen that had to be real enough to fool an international audience.
I watched Argo without having a clue as to what it was about or who was in it and that’s the first time I have seen a movie so completely oblivious in a long time. It is a masterful bit of storytelling that balances the tension of the first story with the dry humor of the second and the combination keeps you on the edge of your seat for the entire movie.
It begins with a brief history of Iran and the events leading up to that morning in November of 1979 when Islamic revolutionaries took the personnel of the American Embassy in Tehran hostage. A stand off that would last for 444 days and span the end of the Carter administration and the beginning of the Reagan years. Six Americans evaded capture and in what became known as the “Canadian Caper” the CIA exfiltrated them with the help of the Canadian Government.
Ben Affleck plays Tony Mendez, the CIA agent responsible for the rescue (the movie is loosely based on his account of the events), in a quiet and understated way, doing little to draw attention to himself. In fact all the performances of this ensemble cast are built to compliment each other. The story is bigger than any individual person and Affleck as director seemed to understand this. There are no “stars” here.
With the help of sarcastic but patriotic makeup artist John Chambers (John Goodman) and Producer Lester Siegel (Alan Arkin) Mendez builds the disguise of a Canadian film crew scouting a location for a sci-fi movie named Argo. At a time when the success of Star Wars had the whole world crazy for more sci-fi it seemed it was the best bad idea when all options were bad ideas.
There have been some changes to the true story for time and content reasons. Which is understandable. This is a Hollywood movie not a documentary. But it did inspire me to research the history of what occurred during those 444 days from 1979-1981. Perhaps that is the best compliment to the storytelling in the movie.
Argo will be released to DVD on February 19, 2013
Shannon is an independent Media Manager who specializes in web series and independent films. She has also been a Script Supervisor, on set Photographer, Editor’s Assistant, author for Web Series Today and is the proud owner of an IMDB credit as “painter”. An avid photographer and classic camera collector she often can be seen at events with her 1969 Polaroid Land Camera and quite possibly at least 3 other cameras in tow.
You can contact her at shanno[email protected] and find her on Twitter @shannon_shea