Argo (2012) ★ ★ ★ ★
Based on the true rescue operation of a CIA agent in 1980, Ben Affleck’s new bio-thriller Argo conveys the chaos of the situation with a dramatic twist. Affleck stays true to the story of now-retired agent Antonio Mendez and the mission, which remained classified until 1997.
Argo follows the rescue op of six fugitive American diplomats, who have previously fled following the attack of their embassy a year prior. There are genuinely traumatic moments in the film – we follow the group driving through a riot, suspenseful security checks and hiding in a basement.
This is no ordinary rescue mission – Mendez enters as a composed, articulate agent who decides to travel to Tehran posing as a Canadian film producer. True to history, the six hostages remained in the Canadian embassy for over a year. During the whole film, it’s clear that time is running out – and Affleck draws on this urgency in nail-biting, fast-chopping action scenes.
Comic relief and witty commentary on the Hollywood culture comes from acting veterans Alan Arkin and John Goodman as Mendez’ film industry contacts. For a thriller film, the dialogue is dense yet free-flowing and each character is well articulated. Cuts between the execs in the White House and CIA illustrate how risky and improvised the mission was –while subtlely acknowledging their ruthlessness as organisations.
Despite the filmic freedom – especially the intense finale – Argo is chillingly reminiscent to modern-day riot footage. Affleck authentically conveys the chaos of revolution and captures the spirit of the late 70s that the reality of our security in the move theatre is momentarily challenged.