I’m always a bit wary of adding to the hype and expectations of any movie that generates “Oscar buzz” before Halloween. But I really liked Argo. A lot. Enough to tout it for Best Picture and Best Director consideration. It’s one of those movies that has everything going for it. Good story. Good characters. Good pacing. And a solid mix of drama, humor and intensity. It’s like watching All the President’s Men meets Apollo 13.
The plot is preposterous – and that’s why it works. The story is based on actual events that were kept classified for nearly two decades. Seriously, you couldn’t make this stuff up if you tried – unless perhaps you work in the intelligence community. Kinda makes you wonder what crazy covert ops we’ll find out about 20 years from now.
Anyway, here’s the gist: Ben Affleck plays Tony Mendez, a CIA ‘exfiltration specialist’ who comes up with the best of the bad plans to rescue six State Department employees from Iran in 1979. The six had managed to escape the storming of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran (and the hostage crisis that ensued) and find refuge at the home of the Canadian Ambassador Ken Taylor (played by the awesome character actor Victor Garber. You may now commence the ‘two degrees of separation from Ben Affleck’ game). But getting the “Canadian houseguests” out safely will take a Hollywood miracle – in the form of a fake science-fiction movie called Argo that a Canadian film crew plans to shoot in Iran. Wink, wink.
John Goodman and Alan Arkin play the Hollywood insiders who provide the civilian cover and the comic relief in Argo. The movie is rated ‘R’ for language, but teens who want to see it most definitely should.
When I see a good movie based on real people and real events, I tend to wonder how close the art came to imitating life. Turns out, pretty darn close, save for the excusable dramatic license and streamlining of story and characters that help keep the movie to a tight two hours. I found an article on the CIA’s website, by the real Tony Mendez. So if you want to learn more on how it all really went down, give this a read, after you see Argo.