The Port Arthur News
Ben Affleck has a legitimate shot at Oscar glory with his third directorial effort, “Argo.” This is a crackerjack political thriller that’s edge-of-your-seat tense, but also quite funny given that it's based on a real-life story so absurd that it has to be true. Nobody would ever believe this yarn without the declassified CIA documents to back up the claim.
Set in Iran in 1979, the story unfolds against the Iranian hostage crisis where American diplomats were held hostage for 444 days. Six diplomats escaped and took refuge with the Canadian ambassador (Victor Garber). Ben Affleck plays the CIA expert who is tasked with devising a plan to get the diplomats out of the country before they are captured by the military, and possibly executed. There are no good options, so the CIA exfiltration expert settled on the “best bad idea” that he could come up with.
Posing as Canadian filmmakers, the plan is to go to Iran to scout locations for a new science fiction film called “Argo.” While there, the hope is that the CIA can connect with the diplomats, pretend that they are part of the film crew and then smuggle them out of the country before Iranian forces realize that the movie crew is completely fictitious.
It’s an absurd idea for a rescue, but it’s so audacious that you’ll cheer it every step of the way. I’m somewhat amazed that this story wasn’t snatched up and made into a film long before this. Kudos to Affleck for recognizing the inherent appeal of this material and especially for his decision to shoot the film in a naturalistic style that doesn’t call attention to itself at the expense of the story.
While I’m handing out credit, let’s not forget Chris Terrio’s superb screenplay. It packs so much detail into the CIA backrooms and the Canadian Ambassador’s house that you’ll feel like your smack dab in the middle of the action. It’s utterly believable. Once again, that’s imperative given that the real story feels like a total Hollywood fiction.
Throw in a cast of assured veteran actors who know how to play the tense scenes as well as those tinged with wry comedy, plus some assured production design that brings the past to life and you’ve got one of the best films of the year.
I’m completely impressed that Affleck has transitioned so seamlessly from mindless action movie actor to one of the better directorial craftsmen working today. “Argo” is his best film yet, and portends great things to come.
Movie reviews by Sean, “The Movie Guy,” are published bi-weekly in “The Port Arthur News” and seen weekly on KFDM-TV and KBOI 2-TV. Sean welcomes your comments via email at email@example.com.