The Buzz: Argo


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BEN AFFLECK stars in Argo as famed CIA operative, Tony Mendez.

Just a little over a month ago, a U.S. ambassador was killed in Libya, and now we have the movie Argo—a  film detailing the 1979 Iran Hostage Crisis. The film, directed by Ben Affleck, couldn’t be more politically charged as the current situation in the Middle East makes the movie hit a little too close to home. Yet while there are political undertones throughout the movie, it is more a celebration of human bravery and human compassion.

The film follows CIA operative Tony Mendez, who must find a way to rescue six U.S. foreign affairs employees who find themselves stranded in a very hostile Iran after their embassy is breached by an angry mob. Faced with few options (one plan was to have them peddle 300 miles on bicycles to the border), the CIA is forced to adopt an exceedingly unusual plan that involves turning the U.S. citizens into a fake film crew looking for a filming location for a fake film.

The movie is truly a work of art.  From the get go, its stylized opening that uses both colorful, cartoonish story boards and grainy, real life, old footage establishes it as a truly well developed film. In addition, its balance of intimate close ups and beautiful aerial shots proves Affleck’s mastery in directing.  It’s also obvious that this movie had a huge budget. Big names, big sets, and an obscene number of extras really put this movie on the map while the handlebar mustaches and popped collars solidly grounds the film in the 70s.

Affleck also excels as the leading man in the film. In fact, the cast all play their roles exceedingly well. Bryan Cranston and Alan Arkin especially shine every time they came on the screen. (Though I was reminded of “Malcolm in the Middle” every time Cranston had a near nervous breakdown.)   Arkin, in particular, stole the show with his one line zingers. In fact, this movie accomplishes within the first ten minutes what many movies (like “Sucker Punch”) cannot do in two whole hours—it makes you actually care about the characters. You truly worry whether the six U.S. citizens will make it out alive—you really care whether they live or die.

For the last half of the movie, I was quite literally on the edge of my seat and I was actually biting my nails. I almost had a heart attack in the last twenty minutes or so. However, though Affleck plays a spy, there is actually very little of the cliché explosions, car chases, and shootouts seen in most action movies. In fact, there isn’t any fighting at all. It would have been a very boring film if it had not been executed as well as it had been.

While the movie is primarily a political movie, it is also very much a commentary on Hollywood. The hierarchical and vain nature of Los Angeles is in fact the butt of much of the comedy in the film. In particular, many jokes are aimed at directors. It was refreshing to know that Ben Affleck and the rest of the crew could laugh at themselves and focus on entertaining the audience. Indeed, with its nostalgic use of tacky costumes and lying, conniving Hollywood inhabitants, these scenes depicting Hollywood serve as comic relief from the constant tension of the situation in Iran.

Though the two hour film consisted of little action and little character development, the minutes flew by fast. In part, this is due to the fact that the movie seems so real. The performances by the actors are very convincing and the script is well written. The banter and small talk between the characters is funny, entertaining, and extremely believable. And the fact that this impossible and outrageous situation was in fact a true story boggles the mind.