Argo was a tense thriller with tremendous performances and is easily a front runner for Oscar glory this year.
During the Iranian Revolution in 1979, Islamic militants stormed the U.S. embassy in Tehran and took 52 hostages who would remain held for 444 days. 6 people managed to escape and found refuge in the home of the Canadian ambassador. Knowing they could not remain there forever, the U.S. government tried to come up with ways to rescue them, with each idea worse than the others. But they finally decided on a plan where one of their agents would go to Iran under the guise of being a Canadian shooting a sci-fi movie. They would get the 6 embassy workers out, pretending they were part of the crew. It involved balls of steel by the agent assigned to the case, Tony Mendez, along with a lot of luck on two continents.
Argo more than lived up to the pre-release hype. It gives you exactly what you're expecting - tension, thrills and amazing performances from everyone involved. I don't know how close to reality the movie comes, as it is based on a true story, but if the real situation were anywhere close to what happened it's amazing everyone made it out in one piece. Ben Affleck, who at a young age has seemingly had a number of different careers, once again proves that he's a top-notch director. His acting may not be up to his directing level, but his attention to detail more than makes up for any acting deficiencies. And his ability to pull performances out of his cast is once again incredible. Watch out for another Alan Arkin swell of support as we get into Oscar season, because he steals every scene he's in. Bryan Cranston also gives a strong performance and should be talked about come award season. But the film clicks on all levels, with great cinematography, music, visuals and costumes to go along with the acting and directing. It really felt like you were living in the late 70s/early 80s and I for one have vivid memories of the Iranian hostage crisis and how it played out in the U.S. And I remember the day the 52 hostages were released, as it happened on or the day before Reagan was inaugurated in 1981. But that has nothing to do with the movie.
The movie does a good job of giving us a quick history lesson to show us how we ended up in the situation that takes place in the film. We're immediately thrown into the story before taking a step back to get to know the characters that will eventually save the 6 that escaped. While there is some backstory given to Mendez's character, we don't get into it too much, which I think was a smart move. The movie wasn't about him per se, it was about the situation. So while it was interesting to know about his separation from his wife and young son, knowing more about it would have shifted the focus of the movie. And while we learned some background about the escapees, again they weren't really the focus of the movie. The movie was about the saving. It could have turned into an international crime caper and a look at the ins and outs of Hollywood, but it toed the line pretty well between showing the ridiculousness of how a movie is made, and a rescue operation a world away. The movie was also a lot funnier than you expect it to be, largely thanks to Arkin and John Goodman playing the fake movie producers. Once we get into Iran, the movie definitely takes a turn into a darker world as we follow these people as they try to quickly get out of the country but are being tracked by the Iranian militants. It all leads to a tremendously tense sequence at the end of the film with a 'will they or won't they' make it out moment. It really is filmmaking at its best.
THE BOTTOM LINE
So overall, I really enjoyed Argo. It's definitely something that should be watched in theaters because you'll want to see it before it hits award season and starts to capture everything in sight.