Argo is one of those movies I went to watch without having the slightest idea of what it was about. And that’s probably why the film is named so obscurely. Directed by Ben Affleck, the movie is a loosely based on Antonio ‘Tony’ Mendez’s account of the Canadian Caper operation. The entire operation was declassified during the Clinton administration after which his book came out.
Not many films keep me hooked throughout their entire runtime. This one did. No, I don’t care if Ben cast himself as Mendez instead of some Latino guy, I don’t care if the film makes Iran nuke USA and Canada. My Wikipedia gyan aside, the film is pretty damn intriguing.
The movie is set in a troubled time when the Iranian revolutionaries went anti America and stormed their embassy, taking fifty people hostage. Six of these escaped and hid in the Canadian ambassador’s house and C.I.A. man Tony Mendez, our protagonist played by Affleck is on a slightly ridiculous mission to bring them home. He is supported by a producer named Lester Siegel (Alan Arkin) and a make-up man named John Chambers (John Goodman). Chambers and Siegel decide to make a fake sci-fi thriller named ‘Argo’. They buy a screenplay, organize a reading and get publicity for the fake film.
The plan then involves Mendez flying alone into Tehran and getting the six out of the country under the guise of a film crew. As mentioned earlier this ludicrous plot is based on reality. Yes, Affleck does take the dramatic license to change some of the things – for one the real Mendez describes the getting out of the airport bit a rather easy job. That wouldn’t make for interesting cinema as you can imagine. But the film has a strong stench of authenticity which is complemented by solid performances of the actors.
Affleck is brilliant at keeping a sense of pace in the film; it captivates the audience with every passing moment. There are times when it seems the plan to rescue the hostage is going to fall apart. The manner in which mise en scene is used to establish certain things is just brilliant. The attention to detail is praiseworthy, even the Warner Bros. logo from the 1970s is brought back for this movie.
Time and space is very well recreated. The irony of the entire situation in Tehran is brought out by strong images such as people eating at a KFC (a sign of American commercialism) while a corpse hangs from a construction crane. Rodrigo Prieto, known for his very unorthodox camera work breathes a sense of surrealism into certain parts, even making it seem like a documentary in some others. A lot of the shots are handheld and reminiscent of the news coverage of the same event. Don’t get me wrong here the premise of the movie is as commercial as it gets, but the manner in which it is treated and executed is what makes the film so praiseworthy and good.