Director: Ben Affleck
Writer: Chris Terrio
Cast Members: Ben Affleck, Bryan Cranston, Alan Arkin, John Goodman
Runtime: 120 min
One of the problems associated with turning a well-known historical event into a film is that a good portion of the audience may already be aware of the story’s outcome. The creation of an engaging and suspenseful film therefore presents a challenge, one that Argo rises to with confidence. By equal turns thought provoking, humorous, and tense, this film takes an audience on a wild ride of emotion and delivers them breathless to a satisfying conclusion.
After revolutionaries invade the American Embassy in Iran, six individuals manage to escape and seek refuge with the Canadian Ambassador. In an attempt to orchestrate their rescue, exfiltration expert Tony Mendez (Ben Affleck) arranges a risky plan to smuggle the Americans out of the country disguised as a Canadian film crew. Not only must Mendez convince officials that this plan could work, but an entire phony movie, complete with a fake producer (Alan Arkin), make-up artist, (John Goodman), plot, etc., must be created as well. Based on a true story.
Rarely does one encounter a film that is able to manipulate the emotions of an audience as effectively as this one does. Although a viewer may be aware of the outcome of the story, as was I, the film is nevertheless able to create suspense and fascination. A smattering of well-appreciated comedy lightens the mood enough for the viewing experience to be wholly enjoyable and never bleak, although the seriousness of the situation is never compromised by deft comic duo Arkin and Goodman. An earnest performance by Affleck creates a likable character that is easy to root for, and many of the escapees are given backstories that allow them to appear human and relatable, resulting in genuine audience concern for their well-being.
As detailed in my previous article for the film Lincoln, it is unlikely that Argo will win Best Picture due to director Ben Affleck’s failure to receive recognition in the Best Director category. I believe this to be a great shame, and Argo to be the best picture of the year. Although Ben Affleck did not receive a Best Actor nomination, it was a pleasant surprise to see the Best Supporting Actor nomination for Alan Arkin, who deftly handled the task of providing much of the tasteful humor found within the film. However, while it did make us laugh, the performance does not leave us in awe, as did those of some of his fellow competitors in this category.
A perfect balance of sincerity, as owed to the serious political and human rights issues depicted within the film, and humor create a highly engaging film that never bores even though the story may be well remembered. The fact that one may find themself at the edge of their seat in eager anticipation for an ending of which they are already aware speaks volumes as to the power of this film. My choice for Best Picture; who knows, a surprise win may just be in the cards for this thoroughly enjoyable piece of film.