When I first walked in to see Argo, I had heard it was good, but I was excited to find out why. Would the backdrop of Hollywood and the Iranian Revolution keep me on the edge of my seat? Would the large shirt collars of 1980 transport me into the era? Would a shirtless Ben Affleck make me wish I, too, were in the movie?
The answer is yes. The political thriller was captivating. In the film, the CIA is tasked with rescuing six Americans who escaped the attack on the American Embassy in Tehran, Iran, when everyone else was taken hostage. The six found refuge in the home of the Canadian Ambassador, and the CIA needs to create cover identities through which to exfiltrate them. The “best bad idea” comes from Agent Tony Mendez (Affleck) who suggests they pose as a movie crew to get past Iranian guards. He heads to L.A. to promote the backstory and then to Iran to pull it all off.
Argo is swimming in dramatic tension: can everyone successfully coordinate to complete the complex mission? With lives on the line, I found myself reaching into the popcorn bag for emotional support more often than I care to admit. My eyes were glued to the screen until the credits started rolling.
Fortunately, though, the movie doesn’t drown in drama. John Goodman and Alan Arkin play Hollywood big shots that helped promote the fake sci-fi movie Argo as a cover story (in case you were curious about the film’s title). Their characters are important, but they also provide comic relief: Arkin brings the classic-but-raunchy humor of a bitter, smart aleck old man, and Goodman makes you laugh as he delivers some truly well-written, witty lines. And let’s not forget Breaking Bad’s Bryan Cranston as Jack O’Donnell, head of the CIA agents. Great actors, a great story and great writing form a baseline for the movie, so Argo really had nowhere to go but up, and that’s exactly where Affleck’s directing took it.
Keeping a close eye on history and the style of the period, everything from the clothes to the camera technique feels authentic and helped sell the story. Every moment feels necessary, furthering the plot or developing the characters. Well, every moment except two: the lingering shot on a random barking Iranian pitbull and Ben Affleck putting on his shirt, though the latter of the two shots may seem necessary depending on who you ask. Clearly the director thought it was. But even the fact that two minor shots should stand out so much speaks to how cohesive the rest of the movie feels.
Argo is a must-see. You don’t want to have to pirate it when it’s out of theaters and nominated for every Oscar under the sun.