Starring: Ben Affleck, Bryan Cranston, Alan Arkin, John Goodman, Victor Garber, Tate Donovan, Clea DuVall, Scoot McNairy, Rory Cochrane, Christopher Denham, Kerry Bishé, Kyle Chandler, Chris Messina, Zeljiko Ivanek, and more.
Directed by: Ben Affleck Screenplay by: Chris Terrio Based on the Book by: Tony Mendez Also Based on an Article by: Joshuah Bearman Cinematography by: Rodrigo Pietro Original Music by: Alexandre Desplat
Premise: Six members of the American Embassy in Iran escaped the embassy when it was overrun in 1979. Given shelter at the home of the Canadian Ambassador, it's only a matter of time before someone figures out they're not supposed to be there. As the hostage situation in the American Embassy escalates, the US calls in Tony Mendez of the CIA to help the State Department come up with a way to get the six out of the country without getting caught or be used to aggravate an already volatile situation. (Rated R)
1) Acting - Total Thumbs Up: On this type of film the whole cast has to be good to weave a tale which will mesmerize the audience, and the cast was good. Alan Arkan and John Goodman tried very hard to steal the show as the two Hollywood types Ben Affleck goes to for help after getting the idea on how to get the six stranded embassy members out. Once they truly get going to set up what they need, the three of them will come up with a phrase you won't soon forget. When it comes up at the end and you feel the tug on your heart, you'll know for sure they have you.
2) Special Effects - Total Thumbs Up: The following may not seem like special effects, but since I think they served the same purpose, I placed them here. The film used two things to instantly transport the viewers to the 70's. First, they used the Warner Brothers logo being used in 1979 rather than the latest modern version. Second, they used the same kind of film lenses as were the 'norm' in 1979, giving the entire movie a visual feel of that period. Combine both of these with the historical film clips, recreated scenes from photographs, as well as the clothing, and the hairstyles of the period, and you'll truly feel like you're back in 1979.
3) Plot/Story - Thumbs Up: I was a teenager when the events depicted in "Argo" occurred, so there was an odd sense of deja vu as I watched different parts of the film. Clips from different news stories at the time of the events helped solidify the concept that all this actually happened.
The story gets a quick introduction to set the historical context for the audience, but is told in a series of drawings as you'd see on a film studio's story board, connecting it from the very beginning to the idea of film and telling tales. The story then broadens and relates events from different viewpoints rather than just a one sided view of what happened.
Moments of tension were well developed, even when you expect them. It was a nice surprise when one of the people who proved most difficult during the ordeal, in the end was actually responsible for the end success of their escape.
4) Locations/Cinematography - Total Thumbs Up: The film had many excellent shots of locations in Istanbul as well as recreated buildings and facades of what places looked like at the time of the incident. The first panned shot of the American Embassy truly drove home the difficult situation we'd stumbled upon as you're shown the crowded street at the embassy gates as well as up and down the street in both directions. The gorgeous window spanning shots of the mountains and the city proved an amazing contrast as the agent sits in his Sheraton hotel room battling internally as he gambles with the lives of the six people in his care.
One sequence, which was fabulous as well as poignant, was the crisscrossing of visual and audio between the party in Hollywood to try to legitimize the "Argo" project and escalating events in Iran. Another was the first view of Hollywood, showing the sad state at the time of the iconic letters in the hills before they were saved by donations and restored back to life.
5) Costuming/Makeup - Total Thumbs Up: With the old logo and old lenses lending to the creation of a 70's feel for the film, as well as the stock footage of the news of the day, the final touches to take the audience back to the past came from the costuming and the makeup departments. The clothing, the hairstyles, the huge eyeglasses, literally 'screamed' it was the 70's. Add in the vintage vehicles and the recreated locations, and we were easily transplanted back in time. A great job all around.
Conclusion: "Argo" is an entertaining and fascinating look at what went on behind the scenes at the time of the American Embassy crisis. If your friends or significant others are into history or politics, it can make for some entertaining discussion afterwards as well. Make sure to sit through the credits! They show pictures from the real fake passports side by side to the actors playing the parts and even compare side by side pictures of the original scenes in 1979 beside their recreations. Fascinating! SF fans will find all sorts of little things to giggle about as well.
Rating: 4 out of 5 (Hubby's Rating: Worth Full Price of Admission)