Argo Earns an A+

John Goodman, Alan Arkin, and Ben Affleck in a scene from Argo.
John Goodman, Alan Arkin, and Ben Affleck in a scene from 'Argo' - Photo © Warner Bros Pictures

Reviewed by Kevin Finnerty

“You really believe your little story is going to make a difference when there’s a gun to our heads?,” asks Joe Stafford (Scoot McNairy). “I think my little story is the only thing between you and a gun to your head,” replies Tony Mendez (Ben Affleck), a CIA ‘exfiltration’ specialist who has come up with an incredible cover story to try to get six Americans out of a revolutionary Iran in the dramatic film, Argo.
On November 4, 1979, the Iranian revolution escalates as militants storm the U.S. Embassy in Tehran taking 52 American hostages. During the chaos six Americans escape and find temporary refuge in the home of the Canadian Ambassador. The White House, along with the CIA, know it’s only a matter of time before the revolutionaries find the six and most likely execute them, so they reluctantly greenlight Mendez’s risky, original plan to get them out. Mendez, along with his contact and friend in the movies, make-up artist John Chambers (John Goodman), set out to create the most outrageous cover story in spy history – that Mendez and the six Americans are a Canadian film crew scouting countries for a new science fiction movie. In order to sell the cover and make it seem real to the world, Chambers and Mendez have to convince a big Hollywood producer, Lester Siegel (Alan Arkin), to help them by putting his name on the fake film complete with a real script, storyboards, and a publicity campaign.
With everything in place, Mendez heads off to Iran with the forged papers, passports, credentials and script. His goal: to meet up with the six Americans and try to get them through all the securities and on a plane to get them back home.
Based on a true story and directed by Ben Affleck, Argo is a suspenseful, dramatic, historical thriller that will have audiences on the edge of their seats up to the very end. This is a riveting film that’s flawlessly directed by Affleck, who captures the look, tension, feel and emotions of the 1979 Iran revolution perfectly. He deserves to be nominated for Best Director by the Academy for his work on this film.
Argo is full of stunning performances, including a wonderful stand-out performance by Alan Arkin as the big-time movie producer who without his help the rescue cover story would never have gotten off the ground. He adds humor and a real sense of morals to a compelling film. Bryan Cranston delivers one of his best performances as Jack O’Donnell, Mendez’s boss who goes above and beyond trying to protect and cover his friend and colleague when things quickly begin to unravel. Here’s hoping both men are nominated for Best Supporting Actor during Oscar season.
The production design, costumes and cinematography are all superb, bringing to life the late 1970s and early 1980s so vividly the audience is sure to feel teleported back to a time when a nation was full of doubt, rage, frustration and courage.
Powerful, fascinating and edgy, Argo is an expertly crafted masterpiece of filmmaking that is guaranteed to be the most engrossing and exhilarating movie-going experience for audiences this year. It’s hands down the BEST PICTURE of the year.
Argo hits theaters on October 12, 2012 and is rated R for language and some violent images.