It’s a little early to be proclaiming Ben Affleck’s “Argo” the best movie of the year – but one of the best? No question.
Among the films I saw at this year’s Toronto Film Festival, it was the most exciting and engrossing. And I can’t think of anything I’ve seen so far this year that offered the satisfactions that “Argo” does. Affleck, who stars, is even more stellar as a director, making a film that turns a forgotten moment of recent history into a thrilling tale of courage and heroism.
The historic event “Argo” deals with is the aftermath of the 1979 takeover of the American embassy in Tehran, Iran, by Iranian students and militants during the Iranian revolution. They were incensed that the U.S., which had enabled the despotic Shah of Iran, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, because of our oil interests (any of this sounding familiar?), had given the Shah asylum when he fled the country in search of cancer treatment. So the protesters took over the American embassy, taking the employees hostage and holding them for more than a year, ultimately costing Jimmy Carter reelection as president. But while they grabbed most of the employees, six managed to escape, hiding out at the homes of Canadian diplomats.
So Chris Terrio’s script picks up with the CIA’s efforts to rescue those six before they are captured as well. The agency turns to Tony Mendez (Affleck, in a shaggy wig and beard), a self-described exfiltrator whose specialty is spiriting people out of hostile territory.
How to do it? Mendez finally hits on an idea: He will create false papers and pass the Americans off as members of a Canadian film company, in Iran to scout locations for a fictional feature film. He brings aboard a movie makeup expert, John Chambers (John Goodman), and an aging producer who hasn’t had a hit in a while, Lester Siegel (Alan Arkin).
This review continues on my website.