run time: 120 mins
considered: Biography, Drama, History
director: Ben Affleck
starring: Ben Affleck, Bryan Cranston, Alan Arkin, John Goodman, Victor Garber, Tate Donovan, Clea DuVall, Scoot McNairy, Rory Cochrane, Christopher Denham, Kerry Bishe, Kyle Chandler, Chris Messina, Zeljko Ivanek, Titus Welliver.
movie summary: Late in November 1979, the U.S. Embassy located in Tehran, Iran is stormed, leaving the employees to flee for their lives. A group of six manage to find a hiding place at the Canadian Embassy house while the U.S. Government figures out how to rescue them.
The embassy is taken hostage by a group of Iranian extremists pissed at U.S. President Jimmy Carter’s decision to protect the former Iranian President who is wanted for war crimes. They hold many people hostage while over at the Ken Taylor’s (Victor Graber) Canadian Embassy, Bob Anders (Tate Donovan), Cora Lljek (Clea DuVall), Joe Stafford (Scoot McNairy), Lee Schatz (Rory Cochrane), Mark Lljek (Christopher Denham), and Kathy Stafford (Kerry Bishe) show up looking for a place to hide. Soon Taylor calls the U.S. State Department, who contact CIA extract specialist Tony Mendez (Ben Affleck) to start a plan to safely evacuate the six survivors.
Tony meets with the highest officers in the CIA to go over past plans that have successfully worked and how they can be altered to accommodate more people in a very hostile environment. They bicker for days on end about what will work and what will be a disaster. Tony doesn’t know what will work, so he goes home one night to call his son. They have a short conversation while watching the Planet of the Apes together over the phone. Suddenly, Tony gets the idea that he pitches to the people back in the office who think it’s a bad idea but by far the best bad idea they have. Within a few hours, Mendez walks around in Hollywood looking for award-winning makeup artist John Chambers (John Goodman) about creating a fake movie as a cover for the escapees. They recruit producer Lester Siegel (Alan Arkin) to get some scripts, set up a production office, and hold casting calls. The three of them choose a movie called Argo, a sci-fi action movie set in a desert, then secure the rights to the script and build their cover around it.
Over in Tehran, the group of six grow very impatient even when Tony shows up on their doorstep. He brings Canadian passports, fake identities, and a way out. They argue about how crazy the plan is and split on whether to go through with it or not. One afternoon the group heads out on the streets to the marketplace to “scout” places to shot the movie, where they run into some trouble with some Iranian people who don’t like them taking pictures. Tensions rise among the group as they head back to the embassy for their final night before the escape when Tony gets word that the CIA has plugged the plug on his plan. Tony stays up all night thinking and rethinking his strategy, and whether or not to go through it without authorization, he feels responsible for these people’s lives and has always rescued the people he set out to bring home. Now that their escape plan has been shut down, which means no verified Canadian passports, no airline tickets, and no production company to back up their stories, Tony and the six escapees may lose their life when they reach customs and the Iranian officers figure out who they really are.
my thoughts: First and foremost, I want to ask if anyone knows how much the trailer budget was for this movie? The Argo trailer was attached to almost every decent movie that summer, and I seriously lost count after seeing it 22 times. At that point, I had no interest in ever seeing this movie because it was shoved down my throat for months. I waited a week or two before deciding to see it and left extremely happy I did see it on the big screen. The story is compelling, powerful, and emotional, which allows you to be drawn into this true story about survival.
Affleck does a fantastic job on both sides of the camera as the director and lead star. He surrounds himself with Goodman and Arkin, who bring their fun, sarcastic personalities to the story to make you laugh despite the problem’s seriousness. The three of them coin their own personal tagline for their Argo movie problem that you can see yourself saying after the movie to some buddies and laughing out loud. The head officers at the CIA are all played by some of the great actors of the past half-century, famous for a cop and other government agency roles.
The cast of six escapees is a mix of guys and girls who go through one of the worst experiences anyone could ever go through. They are excellent at depicting the stress and emotion involved with running for your life. At times, they don’t care what happens to them; they just want to be free, but no one wants to actually step up and risk their lives for freedom when the time comes. It is a see-saw battle of emotions that will keep you on the edge of your seat and bring tears to your eyes.
Argo beat out a few great movies in 2012 to win the Oscar for Best Picture, and I couldn’t agree more. If you haven’t had a chance to watch this great movie, I would recommend renting it or buying it because you won’t be disappointed with this retelling of a true story.
my star rating: 9 out of 10
imdb.com: 7.8 out of 10
rottentomatoes.com: 96% out 100%