Political revolution, execution, an overthrown dictator, and hostages equal the perfect recipe for a dramatic thriller, but add in calculated dry humor and quick wit and you have one of the best movies of the year.
It is a fine line to cross, making people laugh while portraying a very serious historical moment, but “Argo’s” producer, director, and actor Ben Affleck does it seamlessly.
Affleck plays Tony Mendez, a CIA operative who is tasked with extracting six stranded Americans from Iran after they escape an embassy takeover by Iranian rebels. Sequestered in the house of the generous Canadian ambassador, the ‘houseguests’, as the six Americans are called, become the most wanted people in Iran.
With no plausible extraction options, Mendez comes up with a plan so crazy no one would expect it to be a ruse used to sneak the houseguests out of the country. The ‘highly tactical’ CIA plan? Pose as Canadian filmmakers looking to use Iran for on-location shooting for the fake sci-fi action movie “Argo”. “This is our best bad idea we have, sir. By far ”, says Jack O’Donnell, the assistant deputy director of the CIA, trying to explain the crazy hoax to his superiors.
A story that would be too crazy to be a believable movie script is actually a page directly out of the history books. Affleck implements the perfect historically informative opening to “Argo”, which keeps viewers who are unfamiliar with the real life story knowledgeable enough to follow as the plot unfolds. He uses real news clips and recreated footage of the Iranian revolution alongside sci-fi graphic storyboards to show the juxtaposition and importance that Hollywood has to the rest of the story.
“If I’m doing a fake movie it’s going to be a fake hit!”, exclaims the Alan Arkin who plays Lester Siegel, the Hollywood producer who puts his name behind the fake film. The movie is infused with befitting comedy throughout, but uses Alan Arkin and John Goodman’s characters to carry the comedic lead- a perfect choice by Affleck, leaving a majority of the comedy for the Hollywood scenes, not to detract from the seriousness of the coinciding happenings in Iran.
“Argo” takes viewers on an emotional rollercoaster through the fears and triumphs of the characters through drama and humor. It is a fantastic example of great filmmaking, script writing, editing, and acting, with every frame looking authentic to the time. Instead of being an over the top action adventure filled with explosions and unrealistic stunts, “Argo” is a grounded portrayal of a real event, mixed with entertainment value to boot.