TIFF Movie Review – Argo (2012)

Argo, 2012.


Directed by Ben Affleck.


Starring Ben Affleck, Bryan Cranston, Taylor Schilling, John Goodman, Kyle Chandler, Alan Arkin, Zeljko Ivanek, Clea DuVall, Tate Donovan and Victor Garber.



SYNOPSIS:

The CIA orchestrates a Hollywood rouse in order to rescue Americans sheltered by the Canadian embassy during the Iranian revolution.

When the Americans assist in bringing a brutal dictatorship to power in Iran, the resentment becomes a groundswell in 1979 which sees the U.S. embassy being overrun by Iranians and the workers held captive but not all of them; six were able to escape and find refuge in the Canadian embassy. As the hostage situation drags on it soon becomes clear that borrowed time that the escapees are living on is soon coming to a close. The trouble is to devise a believable extraction plan.

The solution to the problem falls into the life is stranger than fiction category. A CIA operative (Ben Affleck) sells the idea of creating a fake Canadian film production which is scouting Iran for possible locations for a science fiction picture; he would play the producer while rest of his production crew will be filled by the six Americans needing to be rescued. Needless to say this is where the satire of Wag the Dog (1997) encounters its real life counterpart and much needed humour in the form of John Goodman and Alan Arkin who provide the Hollywood support for the project.

An effort is made in the beginning to combine comic book illustrations and documentary footage to put the event in the proper historical and political context. When the embassy is overtaken by the protesting Iranians is full of suspense and drama with skillful use of archival and live-action footage. A game of cat of mouse unfolds as the story crosscuts between the would-be captives and captors. Never one to be a big fan of the acting abilities of Ben Affleck, I have a strange idea that his grizzled beard appearance made him more palatable this time around. Bryan Cranston does a good job of playing the superior of Affleck who is more supportive than combative.

As for the role of Canada it is downplayed and the Stars and Stripes appear fluttering in the background when Ben Affleck is reunited with his estranged wife. It is hard not to imagine patriotism seeping into a movie like this considering the subject matter. There are some formulaic Hollywood elements in play but they are well executed. Affleck is definitely growing in confidence behind the camera and it shows on the big screen. Expect Argo to receive a Best Picture nomination at the Academy Awards in 2013.

Flickering Myth Rating: Film ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie ★ ★ ★ ★

Trevor Hogg