Oh, I can just see those little golden statuettes in Ben Affleck’s hands now.
“Argo” is a top-quality movie all the way around, from its direction, plot lines and atmosphere to Affleck’s impeccable direction. You’re going to be hearing a lot about this movie now because it’s superlative, and you’ll hear even more as awards season rolls around early next year.
Screenwriter Chris Terrio used Joshuah Bearman’s article, “Escape from Tehran: How the CIA Used a Fake Sci-Fi Flick to Rescue Americans from Tehran” for his screenplay. And Affleck helms it into an edge-of-your-seat thriller as one of the most exciting and memorable movies of the year. It’s based on a true story that nails the details — right down to every smoking ashtray — that make the era come alive.
The show begins in November 1979, when militant students take over the U.S. Embassy in Iran. Before they can become hostages, six employees and diplomats manage to escape and stay hidden in the home of a Canadian ambassador.
The State Department, with the assistance of the CIA, tries to concoct a rescue mission. It’s more likely with each passing day that all six could be discovered and executed.
Agent Tony Mendez (Affleck) is called in to put together a way of getting all six out safely. The way Mendez comes up with his plan is highly entertaining: He decides that he and several others, including the six who need to be rescued, could pretend to be a production company for a science-fiction movie called “Argo.” Supporting their cause are makeup artist John Chambers (John Goodman) and producer Lester Siegel (Alan Arkin).
The tension is carefully built by Affleck’s expert direction. He deftly moderates that tension with some marvelous dialogue, much of it uttered by Arkin and Goodman to great comic effect. Affleck is wonderfully subdued as the agent who has so many lives in his hands.
For me, and for those of you who are fans of the too-short-lived HBO series “Carnivale,” I loved seeing the talented Clea Duvall (she played Sofie in “Carnivale”) in a solid role that’s worth her acting chops.
This is an intelligent movie that not only entertains but also provides a glimpse into an important moment of world history. The end credits wrap it up perfectly as one of the finest that 2012 has to offer.