Ben Affleck has truly grown into the promise of his spectacular Hollywood debut in the 1997 hit Goodwill Hunting for which he shared an Oscar for writing with his pal Matt Damon. In the four saw blade Argo, Affleck continues the success he had with The Town (2010), in which he also both starred and directed. Affleck completes the hat trick by also producing Argo, along with George Clooney and others.
This R rated drama is a true-life thriller. Younger audience members will not personally remember the now historical events depicted in the film. The Islamic revolution that swept over Iran in 1979 also swept over the U.S. embassy, resulting in the illegal captivity of the personnel there for more than a year.
Argo tells the story of six staffers that fled the embassy and went into hiding at the home of the Canadian ambassador. When the staffers escaped we were told only that the Canadians got them out of Iran. Argo tells the rest of the story.
CIA man Tony Mendez – whose life and writing forms the basis for the mildly fictionalized movie – has the idea to make a fake science fiction movie as a front to slip the staffers out of Iran.
Affleck plays Mendez. Alan Arkin and John Goodman play the actual Hollywood pros that agree to help make the fake film seem real by setting up a fake office, doing fake publicity events – complete with actors in costume – and otherwise doing what a real film company would be doing. I love it when Hollywood can make fun of itself, which Arkin and Goodman do with gusto.
The scenes set in the chaos of post-revolution Iran are tense, frightening and haunting. The revolutionaries strung up opponents from construction cranes in the streets of Teheran and left them to dangle, the better to impress the public. In the post picture credits Affleck shows actual news photos of this and some other events in the film to demonstrate his historical accuracy. His scene set in the crowded, emotionally electric bazaar is as scary as anything I have seen on film. It seems that any horror is possible at the drop of a hat and Affleck does it using only tightly packed people and noise – great directing.
The real life Tony Mendez had a kind of genius and tremendous courage to pull this operation off and this film is a proper tribute to him. It is also an indictment of those many places in the world where emotions run amok and life is held to be very cheap. The film is R rated for some language and horrifyingly realistic street murders by the revolutionaries.
This movie runs exactly two hours. With a budget of $44.5 million and an opening weekend take of $20 million, word of mouth testimony will have to work well for producer Affleck to make his money back. My showing was jammed. This is a worthwhile movie experience for adults and deserves a large audience.