Saturday, November 24, 2012

Argo: A Riveting Thriller From Director/Star Ben Affleck

Ben Affleck has already proven himself as a director with Gone Baby Gone (2007), and The Town (2010), two well-received crime dramas. Argo (2012), his third time behind the camera, has recently been released, and it’s another winner. The film tells the fact-based story of a CIA operative who helped six U.S. diplomats escape from Iran during the 1979 hostage crisis. After the fall of the Shah & the rise of militant factions within the country, the US embassy’s staff is taken prisoner. A group of diplomats manage to evade capture, and hide out at the home of the Canadian ambassador. As our government negotiates for the release of the embassy’s hostages, the CIA tries to come up with a plan to get these 6 escapees out of the country safely.

A CIA agent and expert in ex-filtration (Affleck) comes up with a unique plan; he can fly to Iran and pretend to be scouting locations for a Canadian science-fiction film. He’ll get the diplomats out as part of his film crew, complete with fake identities and passports. The movie follows the creation & initiation of the plan, and parallels it with the situation in Iran and the threats faced by the diplomats & the larger group of hostages at the embassy. Iranian rebels are searching for any people who may have escaped , and factions within the CIA & our own government begin to doubt the validity of this daring idea. They're worried that if the plan is discovered, it might affect the negotiations for the release of the embassy hostages.
Some of the diplomats don’t entirely trust Affleck's CIA agent, and feel they can’t learn their cover identities well enough to evade questioning or capture. But he’s determined to get these people home. As the date of the escape nears, things get more intense within Iran; the US even thinks about cancelling the entire operation. Even though you already know the ending, this is a top-notch thriller. It’s a suspenseful ride, filled with great moments and excellent performances. As with many fact-based movies, some of the real-life events are combined or compressed, but this is still a powerful story, and because many of us were alive at the time these events took place, it resonates on a deeper level.

Affleck and his crew get the looks and the details right, mixing in real footage from the era to give the story authenticity. He wanted to make sure the project looked and felt real; the movie was shot on film, and the image was blown up to give it a grainy, 1970s look. The director and his crew were inspired by the style of movies like The Parallax View & All The President’s Men. Even the Warner Brothers logo used to open the film is the one used in films from that era.  The cast is peppered with familiar faces and top-notch character actors, including Alan Arkin, Victor Garber, Bryan Cranston and John Goodman, who portrays real-life makeup master John Chambers (an Oscar winner for the original Planet of The Apes), who assists with making the Hollywood side of the “fake” project feel real.

The film was produced by Affleck, George Clooney & Grant Heslov; the taut screenplay is by Chris Terrio, based on The Master of Disguise by Antonio Mendez & The Great Escape by Joshuah Bearman. Argo is an exciting, tense ride that’s all the more amazing because it really happened; Affleck and his cast & crew have done an excellent job showing us the story behind this mission (the details of the operation were declassified by President Clinton in 1997), and giving us some insight into how the government and intelligence agencies operate in a time of crisis. Ben Affleck is proving himself to be a filmmaker to watch. Argo is currently finishing up its run in theaters, and should be released on video in the near future.

Here’s a link to the film’s trailer:

A brief personal note: This week marks my 100th post at Eclectic Avenue. It's been a lot of fun to share my thoughts & reviews with you since I began doing this in April 2011. I want to thank all the readers from around the world who've taken a look at the site and indulged me as a I ramble on about movies, music & books. Thanks for your support!


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