Anthony's Film Review

Argo (2012)

Argo presents a solid combination of a suspenseful political thriller and an incredible true story...

When I first saw the trailer for the movie Argo, my impression was that it was going to be an average movie with a somewhat weird premise. I remember seeing a bearded Ben Affleck talking to Hollywood people about making a fake movie, interspersed with clips of locales in Tehran, Iran, and stamped with a note that this is based on a true story. And I remember thinking, "What kind of true story is this?" Even my friend who was sitting with me in the theater thought it was going to be a "whatever" movie. But later, I heard the many positive reviews for Argo and decided to check it out.

Boy, was I misled by the trailer, and I mean this in a pleasantly joking manner. The trailer makes Argo look like a true story that is just too weird for people to even take notice of it. The movie is really about an intense mission to save Americans from the Middle East and doing so with a daringly creative method. This is a true story that not many people have heard of, and that's because, according to the film's epilogue, it remained a government secret until U.S. President Bill Clinton declassified the story in 1997. I can imagine why Clinton might want to let the public in on that story. It's about the dangers of being taken hostage, the risks that intelligence officials take, and the heroism in bringing innocent people to safety.

The beginning of the movie does a great job setting the tone for the rest of the movie. First, it provides a brief political history of Iran to illustrate the path towards revolution. Then we see a United States embassy in Tehran, Iran, where a crowd is protesting outside the gates. At first, the people inside are watching the protestors carefully. But then, a few protestors climb over the gate, while another breaks the gate's lock and force it open. It's clear that these people are going to be destructive. The Americans inside the embassy begin to scramble, not just to save themselves but also to destroy all documents with sensitive materials before they fall into the wrong hands.

This scene goes on for a couple of minutes, but already it feels intense. The pacing is fairly quick, and there are plenty of sudden changes in camera shots and quick camera movements. The urgency of the situation is no doubt clear. When it's all over, the Iranian protestors, who are clearly rebels, take over the embassy. Meanwhile, six Americans escape from the embassy and seek refuge in the residence of a Canadian ambassador.

At this point, a member of the Central Intelligence Agency, Tony Mendez (played by Ben Affleck), enters the picture. He joins a meeting with other CIA officials to discuss a way to save the six American escapees. Some ideas that are tossed around seem easy, but Mendez quickly points out their flaws. Later, he comes up with an unusual idea: go into Tehran as a Canadian film producer. Once he arrives, he can give false identities to the six escapees so that the whole group can leave Iran as if they're a film crew ready to go home after doing location scout work.

But in order to make this plan as convincing as possible, Mendez has to seek help from Hollywood itself. It isn't enough for him to say that he's a film producer. He also has to make sure there is a script for the movie and even posters and press releases for it. To do all of that, he works with producer Lester Siegel (played by Alan Arkin) and makeup artist John Chambers (played by John Goodman). The film that they pretend to do is called Argo, a science-fiction adventure set in the Middle East. With the film project underway, Mendez is convinced that this deception plan will work.

Now I shall talk about the one reason I love this movie: suspense. From the moment Mendez begins his mission to when it's all over, there is nonstop fear that something could go wrong. While the suspense is more mild and not excruciating, it's always there as the story moves forward without slowing down. In one notable scene, one of the six escapees expresses fear about not being able to maintain his false identity and being imprisoned, or perhaps killed, for being an American spy. It's a reminder of how grim this situation is. The suspense is especially intense during the climax when the group is closer to freedom but there are more difficult obstacles to maneuver past.

Once the film ended, I immediately thought that it was an incredible ride. It may be a fairly straightforward story, but it's one that is intriguing and grabs your attention. It's also neat how it's based on events that actually happened. Best of all, it's a powerful story about heroism during a crisis and cooperation between governments (in this case, the American and Canadian governments). Overall, I'm glad I saw Argo, not to mention thankful for those who decided to bring this harrowing story to life on the big screen.

Anthony's Rating:

For more information about Argo, visit the Internet Movie Database.


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