Director: Ben Affleck
Writers: Chris Terrio, Joshuah Bearman (article)
Stars: Bean Affleck, Bryan Cranston, John Goodman, Alan Arkin, Victor Garber

I remember when Ted Koppel was on TV for half-an-hour every night giving updates on the Iranian hostage crises: that would in due time become Nightline, a show he would host for twenty-five years. During the almost fifteen months Americans were held hostage, it seemed things would never be back to “normal.”

It’s been over thirty years. Argo brought it all back.

argo poster

Argo opens with a great historical montage and voiceover describing the critical events leading to the hostage crises. It gives you a great sense of both realism and history, despite the fact that the story has been fictionalized. (For more of the real details, the Wired article that Argo was partially based on can be found here.

Obviously, any “plot holes” have to be forgiven because that was just the way it happened. The idea of legitimizing something by putting ads in Variety, etc.–how could it not be real? The details were simply amazing: that they actually had to option the script, set up an office, etc.

The oddest piece for me was the priority put on incinerating the classified material–didn’t they have shredders? Then later, other documents are shredded. Still later, teams of carpet weavers (some of them children) worked to reassemble the shredded document pieces. I would have called this totally improbable if it hadn’t happened in real life–which can often be stranger than fiction.

Occasional clips of the shah, Ayatollah Khomeini, and President Carter, as well as general stock footage, really keeps this grounded in the period. Kudos to the makeup and costume folks for outstanding work, as well as set design, props, locations–the feel is spot on.

What makes this film stand out is the excellent pacing. It’s a scary time–the “houseguests” were in fear for their lives, and there is a genuine sense of urgency–you practically want to cheer. A good script and fine directing by Ben Affleck clearly come into play here.

There are also some great performances, particularly Affleck as Tony Mendez, and John Goodman and Alan Arkin representing Hollywood as makeup man John Chambers and producer Lester Siegel.

But honestly, how did we live without cell phones back then? It was plain weird seeing spies getting phone calls at someone’s house.

Geek fact: the actual script used was an adaption of Roger Zelazny’s Lord of Light . . .

Argo f** yourself.

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