Film Review: Argo (2012)

Spy story with a twist, 4/5 stars

Todd Miller | Collegio Writer

When you hear about a movie focused on the actions of the CIA, the easy conclusion is that it will be an overly dramatized spy story, possibly to stop some sort of nuc

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lear missiles owned by a vague country of origin. “Argo” is nothing like that, and it certainly puts that ideal to shame.

Ben Affleck as Tony Mendez in "Argo" (Warner Bros., 2012).

Ben Affleck as Tony Mendez in “Argo” (Warner Bros., 2012).

“Argo” is focused on the CIA’s actions during the Canadian Caper, a plan executed by the Canadian and American governments to rescue six Americans in Iran who barely managed to escape being held during the Iran hostage crisis in 1979-80. Tony Mendez (Ben Affleck) is a CIA specialist who comes up with the idea of making a fake movie, called “Argo,” in order to safely go to Iran and get the six Americans out, all posing as a film crew scouting locations. Mendez works with the movie makeup artist John Chambers (John Goodman) and producer Lester Siegel (Alan Arkin) to create a phony production company in order to sell their fake motives to the Iranian revolutionary government. Despite their work, the mission is still risky.
“Argo” is interesting from beginning to end, and stayed tense the entire time, without feeling exhausting. Despite knowing the end-result of the mission, I found myself at the edge of my seat, waiting to see what would happen next.
The characters felt real, though it may not have been hard given that they’re all based on real people. My only complaint with the characters was Affleck’s decision, as director, to cast himself as Mendez. Mendez is meant to have Hispanic heritage, which is clearly not evident with Affleck.
Another complaint I had: When a real historical event is made into a movie, some plot elements must be implemented for the sake of putting more at stake, making the movie more tense. The important thing in creating these additions is to seamlessly blend them with the real events. Unfortunately, I was able to distinguish many of these extra scenes from the real ones (or the fake ones that came across as real). I could only sit through them with less expectation, knowing they were added for drama. And the excuse, “Well, it’s only based on a true story,” is not an excuse.
The movie did a good job capturing the time period. Everything had that late-‘70s/early-‘80s look, rather than the “fake” look often seen in other media set in this time period. It’s a minor thing, but it makes for a better-looking movie. It made it feel like the characters and sets jumped through time. The only exception being the broken-down Hollywood sign, when Mendez flies to Los Angeles. That was fixed about a year before the movie takes place.
Despite these fallacies, there are few negatives in “Argo.” It’s a well-crafted movie, with nice writing and good detail put into the visuals. It does a great job telling the story of the Canadian Caper to a generation that doesn’t know much about the Iran hostage crisis, or the Caper specifically. If you like semi-action/drama stories, I recommend “Argo.”

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