Argo, is the third directorial feature from Oscar winner and former half of “Beniffer”, Ben Affleck.
“This is the best bad plan we have, sir”
The film is set in 1979 Tehran, in a post revolution Iran. It tells the story of the attempted rescue of six escapee US embassy staff, hiding out in the Canadian Embassy. Affleck, who looks neither Italian or Mexican, puts in an understated performance as Tony Mendez, the CIA agent tasked with the rescue effort. Mendez, inspired by watching the Battle For The Planet Of The Apes film, creates a cover story that the escapees are Canadian film makers scouting locations for a new sci-fi film.
Support to Mendez in the rescue effort is given by an excellent support team and cast. His CIA colleague Jack O’Donnell (Bryan Cranston), Hollywood make up genius John Chambers (John Goodman), and fictitious film producer Lester Siegel (Alan Arkin) making up the team.
“We’re gonna need a script”
The film is an excellent if flawed thriller, with it Affleck distances himself from his Gigli past. In spite of an underlying sense of “everything will work out in the end”, I found myself enthralled with the events as they unfolded on screen.
Despite being a finely tuned thriller, Argo left me feeling short-changed. The characters, all of whom are real, Siegel a composite, are vague and unconvincing. They are about as plausible as the sci-fi characters in the “Argo” screenplay Mendez and co. are pretending to shoot.
I felt no sympathy for the characters on screen, their plight, and I did not find myself routing for them. At one stage Siegel proclaimed “we’re gonna need a script”…Arkin appeared to break the fourth wall with this utterance. Having watched Argo I did wonder how Chris Terrio’s screenplay was nominated for, and won an Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay! Perhaps the reasons were more politically motivated than artistic?
There is one a pivotal scene in the film that lacks credibility and purpose of intent. The “Argo” screenplay is having a public table read for the Hollywood press in a bid to engender authenticity as a project. At the same time real world events occur in parallel. The scene is muddled, the obvious intent of the scene falling short in execution, hampering the film’s middle-section.
Without wanting to politicise the review; I feel I have no choice! I find it hard to route for American agents attempting to rescue American escapees, in a country and region that the US has had a hand in destabilising for many years.
The underdeveloped and cardboard escapees bare a striking resemblance to their namesake only in look-a-like terms, relinquishing
any feelings of sympathy, politics aside.
“If we wanted applause, we would have joined the circus”
Argo is a superb, if flawed thriller. Affleck deserves the plaudits for his work, and with an Oscar for Best Picture under his belt, he can easily lay claim the title of; the new Clint Eastwood.
Rating: 4 / 5*
* This is borderline 4/5. It works superbly as a thriller, but the characters are anoxic.Technically perfect it should be a 5/5 but the poor characterisation drops it to 3/5.
words by david rushe