You couldn’t make up this stuff. Well, maybe Kurt Vonnegut could, but seriously folks, a low budget science fiction movie as cover for a CIA rescue plan in revolutionary Iran? No way. Way! It happened and Ben Affleck tells the story as actor and director brilliantly in his latest film, Argo! And what a story.
Just to set it up, and don’t worry, I won’t tell you everything, Islamic militants storm the U.S. embassy (sound familiar) in Tehran in 1979. Many Americans are held hostage, while 6 American staff workers manage to escape to the Canadian ambassador’s residence. Argo is the story of their rescue attempt.
So just how does one rescue 6 Americans who are in hiding from revolutionaries in Iran whose capture would mean certain torture and possible execution? Easy. Send in a CIA agent posing as a Canadian filmmaker to smuggle them out as his production crew. But does it work? You’ll have to see the flick to find out.
Ben Affleck assembled an excellent cast for the film. Alan Arkin deserves serious Oscar attention for his portrayal of a cranky, semi-retired movie producer. John Goodman plays the role of a likeable, and obscure B film make up artist. Ben Affleck cast himself in the starring role as Tony Mendez, the CIA agent who cooked up the improbably ridiculous and brilliant rescue plan. Bryan Cranston (Hal, from Malcolm in the Middle) plays Affleck’s CIA colleague. The 6 embassy staff workers are all played by lesser known actors who certainly looked the part, and you’ll know what I mean at the end of the movie. And do stay for all the credits; you will be rewarded for doing so.
For a suspenseful action thriller that had me holding my breath with a cupped hand over my mouth, the characters were surprisingly well-developed. Each actor played his or her part as if playing the main character, as Affleck believes they should, adding depth and personality to their roles, something much easier to do in print than on film.
On the random observation front:
- The extra large size of the eyeglasses the embassy workers wore annoyed me. What was with that late 70’s to early 80’s style where the rims practically covered the entire face? I felt Affleck mocked the style just a little, or at least I hope he did.
- Folks sure smoked up a storm in 1979, in offices and even on airliners. How did any of us survive?
- Argo was a science fiction script that was never actually made into a movie. We get bits and pieces of the plot and it is so outrageously fantastical that it might have actually worked better as a comedy. And you know what it reminded me of? This: Venus on the Half-Shell by Kilgore Trout. And if you know Kurt Vonnegut, you know Kilgore Trout.
Go see Argo. It might not win an Oscar, but it should. And I’ll say this – it may the best film I see all year; maybe the best you see too. Cheers!