Without a careful hand, a political-history film can lose its entertaining power. However, what Ben Afflect did in his newest directorial work is a masterpiece. “Argo” is where a classified political story blends greatly with thrills. “Argo” is among the 2012 films highly considered as the contenders of this year’s Oscar, and many recognition it received from many critics circle, awards, and reviewers become an undoubted proof. Some said that “Argo” captured a very detailed portion of the true events (although I believe some parts of it were a little bit dramatized), but I bet you might be surprised to know if the story was a real true story.
“Argo” was set in the situation of conflict between United States and Iran, in 1980s, when Iran’s ex-president-turned-to-biggest-enemy Reza Pahlevi was given asylum in United States. The people of Iran got mad, went out to the streets outside the US embassy, and rioted. They took over the embassy building, gathered information, and imprisoned all the Americans inside the building, except six who escaped and hid in the Canada embassy. In the situation of anti-American in Iran, Tony Mendez (played by Ben Affleck), a CIA specialist, was one of those who discussed and set a mission to send the six survivors home. Then, he came up with an idea of putting him and the six Americans as Canadian filmmakers who was observing Iran as the location where the shooting of a fake sci-fi film titled “Argo” would take place.
"This is the best bad plan we have, sir." - Tony Mendez
Its 12-minute opening is tense and breath-taking. We’ll be introduced with a short history of the conflict and taken to see the situation of chaos. The people of Iran were in temper, they could nearly do any violence to show their anger to the American. Bad decision of the government can endanger the lives of its innocent citizens, no? That’s what “Argo” tries to point out. Ben Affleck, as both the actor in the leading role and the director, successfully brings a detailed, thrilling, and spellbinding political film—although I appreciate him more for his job as a director than as an actor. It contains a simple dialogue for such a complicated and multilevel plot. Don’t you leave your seat after the film ends: wait until the closing credits goes to see a side-by-side comparison of some of the film scenes and the real situation. It shows how the crew really tried to figure out the real situation. Maybe, to be honest, some of the conflicts were so dramatized that you could even laugh at them (see how they use tight timing as the main power of thriller), but screw that: I was hypnotized to be as stressful as the survivors. It barely has any on-screen violence, action scenes, or even strong characterizations by the characters: the plot doesn’t need all that to bring tense. Somehow it’s emotional, but it’s also a nice success.
My first question—regarding to its premise—is, did they really do that? I mean, did they really do such a hilarious trick to safe the six Americans? While the answers were “yes”, the mastermind of this seemingly unsuccessful mission—Tony Mendez—had a great responsibility to maximize the chance of sending them home safely. See: it’s not CIA that helped them, it’s Hollywood. Tony successfully did his job more because of the help of the two Hollywood guys, Lester Siegel (played by Alan Arkin) and John Chambers (played by John Goodman), rather than the help of his CIA partner, Jack O’Donnell (played by Bryan Cranston). Tony Mendez is a representation of his country, and Argo—I am referring to the fake film—is a metaphor of how the government of the United States could do nearly everything, even the most out-of-the-box and the simplest one, to take its citizens back to their country. Maybe “Argo”—now I’m referring to the film this review is talking about—could capture a greatly detailed view of the real situation, but I guess it didn’t do a balanced storytelling of putting the situation of conflict between USA and Iran. It slowly and softly moved its focus from putting the “responsibility” of the conflict on the shoulders of both country, to “appreciating” the cooperation of USA and Canada as a good example of bilateral relationship. “Argo” didn’t tell as much as I expected, but from the least it could show to the viewers, it deserved high appreciation.
You know, I’d love to discuss about the political story behind “Argo” more than the film itself. Undoubtedly, “Argo” is the taste of this year’s awards, for it gives a thrilling based-on-true-events film that everybody can understand. I am questioning how could Ben Affleck and the crew made such a multinational, involving-conflict film like “Argo” (I mean, see the film and ask: how could they even get a permission from the Iranian government?), but however they did it, “Argo” is a true success. Trust me, the Academy will love it.
▲ Thrilling, breath-taking, detailed capture of real events
▼ No exploration of the characters
ARGO | COUNTRY USA YEAR 2012 RATING Rated R for language and some violent images RUNTIME 120 min GENRE Drama, History, Thriller CAST Ben Affleck, Bryan Cranston, Alan Arkin, John Goodman, Victor Garber WRITER Chris Terrio (screenplay), Joshuah Bearman (article) DIRECTOR Ben Affleck IMDB RATING 8.2/10 (Top 250 #197) (to date) METACRITIC 86/100 (Universal Acclaim) (to date) ROTTEN TOMATOES 96% (Certified Fresh) (to date) MORE INFO