I found Ben Affleck’s Argo to be a quite excellent political thriller. Telling the story of the how the CIA and Canadian ambassador spirited 6 Iranian embassy employees out of Iran after they escaped during the hostage takeover in 1979, Affleck has directed a very jittery and tense thriller. Really, he’s an unexpectedly good director. This is first-rate stuff. I suppose the “true story” thing takes away some of the tension since you know what’s going to happen, but this is a really fun film. Affleck plays a CIA agent with a speciality in finding ways to rescue Americans after coups (what a job!). Bryan Cranston is his supportive boss. In order to find a cover, Affleck connects with his friend, a Hollywood costume designer (John Goodman) who gets him in touch with a famous but fading producer (Alan Arkin). Together they come with the big idea–they will create a fake science fiction movie they want to film in Iran. Affleck will go there, given the escapees fake names and stories they will memorize, they will spend a day scouting locations with the help of the Iranian government, and then they will all fly out.
That’s a totally ridiculous story except that’s actually what happened. Since it is so improbable, it somewhat relieves the old “true story” problem. Affleck’s direction is sure and he is key to the picture as an actor without overwhelming it through his own direction.
And of course the late 70s fashions are as fantastic as you’d expect.
I have read that both the Iranians and Canadians were both mad about the movie. The Iranians for obvious reasons. Although really, while one can certainly say that the U.S. terrible to the Iranian people during the entire Shah era, it’s also awfully hard to defend the actions of the Islamic Revolution, especially in its early days. As for the Canadians, they, and in fact mostly the ambassador involved, is mad for being slighted. And it’s true, he’s a fairly passive character in the film, outside of actually hosting the people. But it’s an American movie so what are you going to do? Not everyone in a fictional movie is going to be portrayed as to what they actually did. Maybe the Canadians should make a rival film. I’d go see it.