FILM REVIEW: Argo
Ben Affleck delivers on the promise of his Boston films with this smart, funny mix of satire and thrills, showing that he's capable of dealing with material outside of his hometown.
Director: Ben Affleck
Cast: Ben Affleck, Bryan Cranston, Alan Arkin, John Goodman, Victor Garber, Tate Donovan, Clea DuVall, Rory Cochrane
Based on the bizarre true story of the CIA's 1980 operation to extract six US diplomatic personnel out of Iran in the wake of the 1979 revolution, Argo takes a tongue-in-cheek approach to what at the time was a very serious situation for the US government. At a loss as to how to extract the group of diplomats who have evaded capture by the Iranians, the CIA call in Tony Mendez (Affleck), an expert in the field of "exfiltration". He comes up with the idea of creating a fake Canadian film crew looking to use locations in Iran for their sci-fi film Argo - smuggling out the diplomats that way.
In order to lend the scheme authenticity, Mendez turns to his trusted Hollywood contact John Chambers (Goodman), a make-up artist, who enlists the help of producer Lester Siegel (the excellent Alan Arkin) to find a script, set up an office and make the film project realistic enough to hold up the cover story. With a sharp script and a strong cast, Affleck handles the material with a good mix of humour and thrills and a strong sense of period and history.
The only flat element in this Wag the Dog meets The Player piece is Affleck's casting of himself in the role of Mendez.
His acting can't quite match the performances he gets out of the rest of the cast and he doesn't quite convey the complexities of the character that are evident in the script. That said, Argo is a refreshing film that shows that Affleck is moving positively from strength to strength as a director, and the film is deserving of the seven Oscar nominations it received earlier this month.