Film Review: Argo

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It would seem that Ben Affleck is on a roll. Marking his third directorial feature and the second time he has starred in his own film, Affleck returns to our screens in Argo – the true story behind the CIA operation that rescued six American diplomats from Iran during the Iranian hostage crisis in 1979.

Argo opens in Tehran on November 4th, 1979, as Iranian revolutionaries riot in the streets outside the US embassy, enraged that the United States has allowed the much-hated Shah to enter America. As the situation escalates out of control, we are introduced to six embassy workers who take their chance to escape and run into the streets of rioters and burning American flags. Looking back to see their embassy building sieged, the lucky few to escape run for their lives as the 52 Americans left behind are taken hostage.

Finding refuge in the home of the Canadian Ambassador (Victor Garber – Titanic), the situation becomes increasingly desperate as the escapees’ absence, and identities, are slowly being pieced together by the Iranian militants. Back in the US, the CIA are struggling to come up with a viable idea to rescue the six embassy workers… queue Tony Mendez (Ben Affleck), a CIA ‘exfiltration’ agent who specialises in getting people out of ‘tight situations’.

Tenacious, creative and one of the best in the business, Mendez gets the CIA to approve Argo, a bogus film from a bogus film studio – ‘Studio Six’ – which Mendez manages to launch through tapping up his Hollywood contacts, prosthetics guru John Chambers (John Goodman – The Big Lebowski) and producer Lester Siegel (Alan Arkin – Get Smart). Set to be a ‘Star Wars rip-off’ and requiring a middle eastern backdrop for filming, Mendez heads to Iran posing as the associate producer, together with six false identities to give to the trapped escapees, his new fake film crew, who are still in hiding.

Sound ridiculous? Too far fetched to be believable? Although you’d be forgiven for thinking such a storyline was the product of fiction, the most astonishing thing about Argo is that it’s true. Mendez went to Iran, the six Americans were safely brought back to the US and the truth of the story remained secret until 1997, when the papers documenting the role that the CIA and Hollywood played in their rescue became declassified. Although Argo isn’t claiming to be a documentary, and some of the final scenes are slightly stretching the truth, the reality behind the film’s plot is nothing short of mind-boggling genius!

Tense, captivating and sometimes terrifying, you don’t need to understand the political backdrop to feel the full impact of Argo on your nerves! But fear not, the film isn’t all nerve wracking as there are some great comedic moments from Goodwin and Arkin, providing much needed relief from the anxiety inducing ‘will they won’t they’ escape sequences, and authentic performances from the ‘familiar faced’ cast starring as the six embassy workers, including Christopher Denham (Sound of My Voice), Clea DuVall (Zodiac), Tate Donovan (Damages), Rory Cochrane (Dazed and Confused), Kerry Bishé (Red State) and Scoot McNairy (In Search Of A Midnight Kiss).

Arguably one of the best films of the year, Argo is a white-knuckle ride from start to finish, so hold on tight. In cinemas Nov 7th.

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