Movie Reviews & Interviews from Washington

‘Argo’ Review: Affleck’s Masterpiece Will Be Up for Oscar(s)

It’s 1979, in the middle of the Iranian Revolution. The U.S. Embassy in Tehran was invaded and 52 American citizens were taken prisoner, but in the midst of the chaos, six managed to get out and hide in Canadian Ambassador Ken Taylor’s (Victor Garber) home. The six are Bob Anders (Tate Donovan), Joe Stafford (Scott McNairy), Kathy Stafford (Kerry Bishe), Mark Lijek (Christopher Denham), Cora Lijek (Clea DuVall) and Lee Schatz (Rory Cochrane).

Tony Mendez (Affleck) is a CIA exfiltration expert, who is called in by his boss, Jack O’Donnell (Bryan Cranston) to help save the Americans who have escaped. Mendez creates a dangerous, yet reasonable plan. He will fly to Iran, posing as a Canadian movie producer (the key is he is Canadian, not American), and do location scouting for this fake Hollywood movie he is making. The six Americans will pose as Canadian moviemakers: a director, screenwriter, producer, associate producers and a cameraman. The plan is that the Americans will go location scouting one day, posing as the fake movie crew and then fly out of Tehran the next day with their Canadian passports created by the CIA.

To make this plan work and successfully save these Americans, Mendez calls on the help of Oscar-winning make-up artist John Chambers (John Goodman) and famous Hollywood producer Lester Siegel (Alan Arkin). Even making a fake movie is hard in Hollywood and these two blast their fake film, which is titled “Argo,” to the press and even go through a read-through of the film. Little did anyone know, it was all to save these Americans from the terror of Iran.

It should be noted that director Ben Affleck’s “Argo” will be up for a few Academy Awards, including Best Director and Best Picture, and at this point, I wouldn’t be surprised if his masterpiece takes the cake for both awards. The direction of this movie is exquisite and cinematographer Rodrigo Prieto should also be recognized. I loved the fluidity of the camera, it was as if the audience members were there with the characters. Bryan Cranston could also be up for a supporting actor nom (does he say no to any movie?)

Performances are good here, but Affleck and the actors who play the hidden six don’t particularly have any character arcs. This is a film that is led by the fascinating and dangerous true story and not performances, which is why it should most certainly be up for Best Picture at the Oscar, but probably not in Best Actor category.

Where “Argo” suffers is what I like to call it’s “Hollywood moments” that take away from the true story. Sure, it helps move the film along every now and again, but we don’t need it to be quite as dramatic as it was in this movie. When you see it, you will definitely be able to point out the moments that don’t feel all-natural.

On the other hand, the tension is through the roof in Affleck’s film, so much so that I couldn’t take my eyes off the screen because I was dying to know what happens next. I was completely lost in the movie world of “Argo” and it was almost a shock when the credits started rolling and the film ended. It’s just that good.

The fact that Affleck and screenwriter Chris Terrio, who based his screenplay off of Joshuah Bearman’s article in Wired, brought this true story to life and it only had a few “Hollywood” moments makes it all the more worthy of a Best Picture nom. I love it when true stories are brought to life on film and this is not only one of the best true stories I’ve seen this year, its one of the best stories I’ve seen in years.

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