“Argo f*ck yourself!”
That’s the punch line to the “knock knock” joke that inspired the fake sci-fi film at the heart of Argo, actor/director Ben Affleck’s outstanding film about what has to be one of the strangest CIA missions in the history of the United States. Working from a fantastic screenplay by Chris Terrio, Affleck has crafted a truly old school suspense movie that is as involving as any film I’ve seen this year. Not only that, the overarching themes still hit home over thirty years later. Terrio’s ability to draw the similarities between the two time periods is one of the many joys of Argo.
Affleck plays Tony Mendez, one of the CIA’s top operatives. The time is 1979 and the Iranian revolution is underway. When the American embassy is overthrown, six of the workers manage to slide out of the building before being taken hostage. They are safely kept by Canadians, but have no way to return home. Mendez crafts a crazy, but brilliant plan: stage a fake movie and have him and his colleagues enter Iran to extract the six fugitives.
This is the kind of movie that would be beyond ridiculous if it weren’t true. In looking at the mission itself, Affleck and Terrio pretty much get it right. I was frequently reminded of 1995’s Apollo 13 in that we know how the whole thing will turn out, but the suspense is still borderline unbearable. Affleck squeezes every ounce of suspense out of this story, but there are also frequently hilarious moments as the government tries to deal with the increasingly bizarre situation. Affleck is excellent as Mendez; subdued and all business. Fine comedic relief comes from Alan Arkin, as a longtime Hollywood producer, and John Goodman as veteran make-up artist John Chambers. This is a terrific entertainment, with the most surprising aspect of all being that this entire plan was pulled off in 1980.
Studio: Warner Bros. Pictures
Length: 120 Minutes
Rating: R for language and some violent images.
Theatrical Release: October 12, 2012
Directed by: Ben Affleck
Written by: Chris Terrio
Cast: Ben Affleck, Bryan Cranston, Alan Arkin, John Goodman, Victor Garber