Argo, Ben Affleck’s latest offering to the silver screen, is a thrilling, captivating dramatization of the 1980 joint CIA-Canadian secret operation to extract six Americans out of Iran. The film manages to merge political thriller with Hollywood satire in a way that’s both subtly comedic and tense at the same time. It is a fast moving, edgy dramatization with an emotional backbone. The narrative tools of tension and suspense are used fantastically to represent the events of 1980. Argo is Affleck’s third attempt at directing a picture following Gone Baby Gone in 2007 and The Town in 2010, but this is his best work to date. Hosting an impressive cast of Affleck as protagonist, Bryan Canston, John Goodman and Alan Arkin, Argo is not only held up by a strong set of actors but also an engaging and riveting plot.
Argo opens up at a blistering pace, with the dramatic opening scene depicting the onslaught on the American embassy. Six Americans manage to escape to the official residence of the Canadian Ambassador. After the CIA is ordered to get the six out of the country, Tony Mendez (Affleck) devises a unique plan; he tries to convince the CIA to let him smuggle the six out by setting up a fake Canadian film production and removing them by faking their identities as film crew members. Mendez is helped in this regard by John Goodman and Alan Arkin who play two light hearted Hollywood contacts. With the acceptance of fake sci-fi flick ‘Argo’, he is given the green light by the CIA to put his plan into action. However, time is running out: the files that were shredded in the American Embassy are being reassembled to gain knowledge of any missing Americans. Even the CIA has grave doubts over the execution of the plot.
The tension and suspense that is so effectively deployed in this film can be seen throughout each scene. The most obvious of these would be the final half hour of the film: this long, drawn out concluding sequence is absolutely fantastic. Mendez and the escaped American’s attempts to avoid detection in Iran are similarly enthralling. There is also a high level of tension reflected at the CIA, where Jack O’Donnell (Bryan Cranston) and others face life-threatening decisions. This level of drama is heightened by the incredibly fast pace of the film. The action sequences are frantic; from the powerful opening scene to Mendez’s attempts to get the Americans out of the country, the story is told at a highly effective quick pace. The soundtrack of Argo also takes from the music scene of the period (borrowing from Dire Straits and Led Zeppelin) and painting a view of the culture at the time.
The film, however, has emotional underpinnings. Mendez is given depth with the subplot of his family; he is on a ‘hiatus’ from his relationship. His son is living with his partner whom he only contacts by phone. The speed and hustle of the main plot is tamed in such instances where Mendez forgets his child’s birthday and sends a postcard at the airport, and also when he recalls his relationship to Siegel (Alan Arkin).
Argo certainly fulfils its purpose, creating an entertaining dramatized retelling of the Iran Hostage Crisis. The film is accurate in bringing its time period to life and the acting in the film is very well done. Affleck organises the plot in clear way, the story has no real plot holes and is for the majority very well organised. The film is now tipped for a good performance at the Oscars, and after watching this effective political thriller, it’s easy to see why. Affleck’s directorial career is certainly heading in the right direction.