An escalation of violence in a foreign embassy, whilst a sad thing in itself, is nothing short of spectacular material for news coverage, but can it also make a good movie? Perhaps one that educates the viewers on what really happened and the underlying causes? Ben Affleck has a stab at this with his recently released movie Argo.
Argo starts with a stylish introduction into Iran’s political history and the changes in leadership there. This effectively provides the audience with the bigger picture, making it easier to follow some of the in-depth story threads that follow later. After this we are immersed into the hectic reality of an American embassy that’s about to be stormed, reflecting the real events that took place in Iran in 1979. We witness the destruction of documents, and follow a group of six that decides to leave the embassy, and therefore American soil, on their own accord to avoid becoming hostages. The story from thereon primarily focuses on their extraction from Iran, led by an exfiltration expert portrayed by Ben Affleck himself. He establishes a plan to get them out under the guise of producing a movie: Argo, a historic fact that was revealed to the public only years later.
The movie is excellently paced and a combination of good camera work and acting makes empathizing with the six key figures natural. This leads to several intense and gripping moments, particularly because they are so believable as normal people. Besides the six main characters, excellent performances in supporting roles are given by Bryan Cranston, Victor Garber, Alan Arkin and John Goodman. The film has a notable seventies look and feel, a result of using the right filming style, set dressing and costumes. The accurate re-enactment of some of the actual news footage of the event adds to the sense of realism. It takes conscious effort to realize that one is viewing a dramatization.
There really is very little to fault about Argo as a movie, despite some minor factual inaccuracies that don’t distract from the narrative. If anything it could have used a more balanced perspective from the Iranian side. Besides that, it is accessible and keeps you on the edge of your seat. What can I say? This is Ben Affleck’s best directed feature film as of yet. If you’re into a good historical thriller, then you shouldn’t miss this. Argo is award quality material.