best picture Oscar winner ArgoCultureCinemaMovie reviews
Based on a true story, Argo is a nail-biting thriller depicting the CIA’s extraction of six American fugitives caught up in volatile Iran during the revolution.
Beginning the film with a retro, comic-book-style overview of Iran’s political background, viewers are catapulted into the extreme, unstable atmosphere of a post-Shah Iran. It is 1979 and ever since the fall of the Shah, the new Islamic rulers of Iran have taken to the streets as a baying mob, demanding that their former leader returns for trial.
Only six embassy workers manage to escape the US Embassy from a multitude of unsettled Iranians. Taking up hidden sanctuary at the home of the Canadian ambassador (Victor Garber), the six unnerved Americans await rescue.
It is a little known fact that Ben Affleck majored in Middle Eastern Affairs at college, and learned to speak Arabic. Two such qualifications set Affleck in good stead, not only for his role as CIA agent Tony Mendez, but also as Argo’s director, giving the film a certain credibility and setting it apart from the usual saccharine-coated storylines regularly churned out by Hollywood.
Deciding on the “best bad idea” the CIA can come up with, Mendez is sent to Iran to pick up the six fugitives, and then escape the country posing as film crew, researching possible locations for the sci-fi film “Argo”. With consistent support from their Canadian allies, the seven characters face a life-threatening challenge to leave their (decreasingly) safe haven in order to flee the fracturing country.
Argo is steeped in suspense. Affleck has done a superb job bringing a 1980s feel to all five senses, and the hostility faced by the Americans is real edge-of-your-seat stuff. The film makes for gripping, if slightly disturbing, viewing, and is laced with dark humour. However, Affleck has made sure that humour is kept to a minimum, as Argo is no comedy.
Argo’s greatest success is in Affleck’s attention to historical detail, which really brings the film to life: from the opening retro-styled “Warner Bros” logo, right through to the credits where real photos of the original fugitives are placed alongside the actors, showcasing the uncanny similarity between the two.
Argo’s only stumbling block is the film’s climax, which tends to be a typical Hollywood action sequence with over-the-top sentimentality.
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