I feel like it’s fairly safe to assume everybody knows what this movie was about, but on the off chance you live under a rock, let me briefly synoposis-ize it for you. (Holy crap, is that ever not a word.)
The story begins with the American embassy in Tehran in 1979, during the height of the Iranian Revolution. When Iranians rioting outside the embassy finally bust through the doors, taking the entire staff hostage, a group of 6 Americans manage to sneak out the back, racing across the street to take refuge in the home of the Canadian ambassador.
As the hostages are tortured and terrified, it becomes clear to the Iranians in charge that they’re missing a few people. They immediately launch a door-to-door search for any information about the Americans who escaped, with the threat of death upon anybody found guilty of harboring them. Realizing it’s only a matter of time before the Americans are found, and the Canadian ambassador along with them, a CIA agent named Tony Mendez (Ben Affleck), comes up with a radical idea to get them out. He’s going to pose as a Canadian filmmaker, go into the country under the guise of scouting for film locations for a new sci-fi movie, and then leave a few days later with the Americans in tow, posing as fellow filmmakers.
Now, here’s the thing. This movie is based on a true story, and even if you didn’t know this specific story before you saw the movie, you surely knew the outcome of the 1979 Iranian hostage situation in general (heck, I was only six in 1979, and even I knew everybody got out of that one alive — of the hostages, anyway). In other words, I knew exactly how this movie was going to end. AND IT DIDN’T MATTER ONE BIT.
I spent the last half hour of this film so friggin’ tense, I practically had a panic attack right there in the theater. The scene in the airport — my god! I kept saying to myself, “They’ll get out! They get out!!” and it kept not mattering a smidge. That Affleck, who directed Argo as well as starring in it, is able to create that much suspense where no suspense should rightly be, proves him, in my mind, to be an absolutely masterful filmmaker.
Now, it’s possible Argo was a fluke, and Affleck’s next movie is going to be a dud (I wasn’t that impressed by The Town, his previous directorial outing, for example). But man, this movie totally kicked my ass — it’s absolutely perfect from start to finish. I loved every minute of it. Great acting, great writing (complete with great humor (“Argo f*ck yourself!”)), great HAIR. Just greatness, all ’round. I have no doubt Affleck will be nominated for Best Director this year, and even though I think the Oscars are stupid and meaningless, for his sake, I’d love to see him win.
Good job, Benny. Keep this up, and the world might finally forgive you for Gigli (in theory, anyway, if not in practice).
Highly, highly recommended!
Cast: Ben Affleck, Taylor Schilling, Bryan Cranston, John Goodman, Kyle Chandler, Clea DuVall, Victor Garber, Alan Arkin, Titus Welliver, Adrienne Barbeau, Tate Donovan, Rory Cochrane, Chris Messina