Argo is a 2012 historical spy thriller film directed by and starring Ben Affleck. With a script by Chris Terrio, Argo marks the first time Affleck has directed a film that he didn’t also write. Argo also stars Bryan Cranston, Alan Arkin, and John Goodman. Argo is based upon the true story of the “Canadian Caper” during the Iranian Hostage Crisis of 1979-1981. In particulat, Terrio’s script is based upon two works, The Master of Disguise by Antonio Mendez, and an article published in 2007 in Wited called The Great Escape.
The film opens right off the bat with a very interesting and well-made opening sequence that sets the backdrop for the events. This does a very good job of establishing the antagonists, (although I don’t know if they can really be called that, there’s no one set villian in the film) instead of doing what I feel a lot of films do, which is to simply tell the audience “these people are bad” and let the audience run with it without further explanation.
Six people working at the American embassy were able to sneak out right before the protestors flooded the embassy and took sixty people hostage. They were able to escape to the residence of Canadian ambassador Ken Taylor, and would remain there for quite some time.
Affleck plays real life CIA exfiltration specialist Antonio Mendez. When the hostage crisis began, the White House blamed the CIA for not giving earlier warning of the possible revolution that did in fact spur from violent protests. Mendez and his assets are frozen in place and he is more or less put on furlough. 10 weeks after the hostage crisis began, both the U.S. and Canadian governments get antsy over what the CIA informally deemed “The Houseguests,” and demand that the six are exfiltrated from Iran. After shooting down some horrible suggestions from the U.S. State Department about how to effectively exfiltrate the group, Mendez gets a crazy idea while watching Battle for the Planet of the Apes; he concocts a cover story about how The Houseguests are a Canadian film crew in Iran to film Argo, a low budget sci-fi flick.
In order to make the plan airtight, Mendez works with Hollywood producer Lester Siegel, a composite character created for the film played by Alan Arkin, and real-lide legendary makeup artist John Chambers, played by John Goodman. Chambers recieved worldwide recognition as the man behind the then-revolutionary make-up effects for the 1968 film The Planet of the Apes. Chambers recieved an honorary Oscar for his work, as Make-Up or prosthetics were not considered a category at the time. He is also the person who gave Spock and the rest of the Vulcans their iconic pointy ears and also worked on the pilot episode for the original 1966 Mission: Impossible television series, which made complicated latex masks and disguises par for the course for the franchise even today. Before Argo, Chambers previously performed contract work for the CIA developing disguise kits for overseas agency personel. Chambers eventually recieved the Intelligence Medal of Merit for his role in the Canadian Caper, but due to the classified nature of the operation, he did not recieve recognition until several years after the fact.
Argo is a very good film. The entire film feels like a throwback to a classic episode of Mission: Impossible, in which a complex and intracate plan would be developed using a varied group of independent contractors in order to achieve a rather complex goal. Newcomer Chris Terrio’s script is quite excellent. It is very intense, yet also extremely methodical. It is very serious, yet also very humorous, extremely so in fact, mostly due to the comedic talents of both John Goodman and Alan Arkin.
As you can see, the humor in the film provided by these comedic actors is injected into the film in such a way that it doesn’t detract or comprimise the gravity of the scary, dangerous, and tenuous situation that is the crux of the entire film. It is very organic and not at all out of place.
Terrio’s script is very well-balenced and the pacing never feels off. Just like the plan, the film moves like clockwork. Well, I mean, the plan mostly moved like clockwork.
Argo is a tense thriller with genuine comedic moments that do not derail, but rather enhance, the film. Ben Affleck is a very good actor who pairs up well against the extremely talented Bryan Cranston, who plays Antonio’s CIA supervisor, as well as meshing with comedic talent such as Alan Arkin and John Goodman. The film is a very well-written and very good opening for newcomer Chris Terrio, historical innaccuracies being disregarded. The film also has a great era-appropriate soundtrack that includes such bands as Dire Straits, The Rolling Stones, Booker T and the MG’s, and Van Halen, and makes me even more proud of the knowledge I gained from that History of Rock n’ Roll class in high school. In addition to the catchy rock classics, Argo features a very effective instrumental soundtrack engineered by Alexandre Desplat.
I’ve said this many times before and will probably continue to say it: Ben Affleck is a masterful director who knows exactly what he’s doing. I have been reviewing his directorial filmography because it is highly likely that he will be directing a standalone Batman film at some point for the DC Extended Universe. Based on the fact that his prior directorial efforts have been indesputable slam dunks, and his upcoming fourth film Live By Night (which he will also be writing the screenplay for), based on Gone, Baby, Gone progenitor Dennis Lehane‘s 2012 historical crime fiction novel of the same name, is shaping up to be another potentially great film for Affleck, I cannot what to see what his plans are for the Batman character.