Affleck Adds Credibility To Unbelievable 'Argo'
Argo is certainly worth a go. Starring Ben Affleck (who also directed), the movie is based on the exfiltration of six American hostages during the 1979 Iran hostage crisis, Argo follows CIA specialist Tony Mendez (Affleck) as he attempts to free a band of American hostages hiding in the Canadian ambassador's home following an attack on the U.S. embassy. The best rescue idea the government has come up with by the time Mendez steps in during a stuffy CIA meeting is to send bikes to the missing six. So, Mendez conjures up a different, more far-fetched idea: pretend the six hostages are a Canadian film crew and sneak them out of Iran through the commercial airport, right through the front door. What's crazy is that the plan actually worked, and when Mendez’s superior (Bryan Cranston) proposes the plan to the government, explaining “this is the best bad idea we have,” you can't help but shake your head in disbelief.
The script is wisely dashed with snappy dialog to keep the film from being overburdened by its heavy subject matter. And while Argo’s central focus is on the actual rescue of these hostages, it would have been fun to spend a little more time in Hollywood as this absurd plan was put into motion. Mendez teams up with Academy Award-winning makeup artist John Chambers (John Goodman) and Hollywood producer Lester Siegel (Alan Arkin) as they put this covert plan into motion (they settle on Argo, a science fiction cliché complete with a blue Chewbacca and all). We attend a Hollywood meeting and a read-through of the script with Goodman, Arkin and Affleck, but nothing more. This trio has such a fine rapport that it's a shame we spend so little time with them on screen.
Ultimately, Argo succeeds not because of any individual performance, but because of the directing work Affleck does up front. Argo opens to a growing riot outside the U.S. embassy in Iran. A low, swooping shot fills the screen with protesters. Affleck employs no soundtrack, leaving us with only the violent chants of the swelling crowd and the rattling of the iron gates as they continue to strain. Then, the first few rioters scale the fence, and when the gates break and the crowd swarms the embassy, the staffers begin to shred and incinerate any incriminating and important documents at a frantic pace. Affleck deftly recreates the hostile environment that remains in the back of the viewer's mind, much as it does in Mendez's, throughout the duration of the movie.
Argo may have been better-suited for a more captivating lead, such as Affleck’s good friend Matt Damon or even George Clooney, a producer on the film. But if I were Affleck and I'd worked so hard on setting the stage, I would have wanted to act in it too.