September 26, 2023


masterpiece of human

Review of Argo, Oscar Winning 2012 Film Directed By Ben Affleck, Starring Ben Affleck, Alan Alda

Argo is a kind of film which allows you to breathe in every moment of the story as it builds and at the same time leaves you breathless with the blazing tension and excitement. There isn’t a moment of ‘Zero Dark Thirty’-like self-consciousness in its direction and cinematography and neither is Argo surfeit with dialogues like Lincoln – the film is purely two hours of rush that not for a moment feels rushed. I deliberately chose to watch Argo after the eight other nominees for Best Picture as it would be easier for me to decide whether or not it deserved the acclaim and accolades. After watching Argo I understand why the film won – it has this winning formula that 2010′s Oscar-snubbed Social Network and Christopher Nolan’s ‘Inception’ had: it keeps you hooked every second every minute of its appropriate 2 hour runtime. You are never distracted, and not for a moment do you twiddle or purposelessly text on your stupid cell-phones.

Talking about cell-phones, Argo is a film where telephones play such an important motif because the film is set in late seventies, a time when cell-phones were still in its infancy. In fact, in Argo’s case, lives are at the stake of telephones and there’s a climatic, teeth-grinding moment that’ll make you feel two things: 1) “Wow, we’re so lucky we have cell-phones these days!” and 2) “Dang! You could get away with such stuff in those days!”. What stuff? Well, just pretending you are a Canadian shooting a ludicrous sci-fi film in Iran with the real purpose of rescuing six fugitives who also need to play along by posing as the film’s crew in order to flee the country (and ah, you all are Americans by the way). Sounds crazy right?

This scenario actually happened in 1979 when Tony Mendez, an American exfiltration expert rescued six American fugitives who secretly encamped at the official residence of the Canadian Ambassador in Iran after escaping an invasion of the American Embassy by Iranian revolutionaries. Our bearded hero (played by a usually clean-shaven Ben Affleck, who should sport this look in more films for it suits him for serious subject-matter films) is called to a meeting where the other members seem unwelcoming towards him and yet can’t help but follow his idea, not finding any better-of-the-worst idea. Tony at first pitches a rather unviable plan but soon rejects it and instead chooses the fake Hollywood film shooting plan after being inspired by a clip from Planet of the Apes, catching it during a conversation with his son. For executing this ‘Are You Serious!’ mission, he gets in touch with Oscar-winning make-up artist John Chambers and producer Lester Siegel who agree to produce, promote and most importantly (for this film) storyboard this movie. Tony poses as the film’s director to Hollywood so he can get easy sanction to go to Iran for shooting, get permission from the Cultural department in Iran to ‘shoot at locations’ and then call the film off and leave, taking along with him the six refugees who shall pretend to be the film’s crew, having with them fake Canadian passports handed by Mendez. To these six refugees, Tony doesn’t reveal his true name until he consciously discloses his identity to two of them to gain their trust. If Tony succeeds, it’s not just USA, Canada and CIA who are celebrating, but also Hollywood which could make all this happened, the best part being that Argo the movie actually never happened.

Some of the things that happened and maybe still happen in the world surprise us, and one scene that stunned me comes later in Argo where Iranian children are used to meticulously reassemble the shredded documents which would reveal the identities of the six American refugees. What didn’t surprise me much however was the benefits a ‘film’ related tag can give you at any place; just mentioning you come from the film-industry grants you some immunity or respite in USA, in Iran or any other place. There’s an interesting scene in the film where the quack crew is accompanied by a member of Iranian Cultural Affairs to location scout at the bazaar and the latter asks fake director, now played by one of the six refugees, whether the film was about a Canadian woman’s romance with Iran’s culture and its people. That’s precisely the kind of movies you see today which aim at sensitizing different cultures and breaking cultural barriers; my point here being that Hollywood can really help achieve that. The climax is another moment where the character’s fake film credentials really work for them, and it’s a treat to watch such an implausible thing actually working.

Argo isn’t a performance-driven movie but a story-driven film, but the presence of Ben Affleck, also the film’s director and producer, as the lead protagonist works best because he’s like George Clooney, not hogging each frame to show how well he can act but to give his dutiful services to a greatly written and directed film. There are no standouts here, and I wasn’t expecting for any but the script is a winner and it pulls in everyone to draw out their characters well enough without over- complicating them. Alan Arkin as Lester Liegel has the film’s best line and he may probably be remembered for that line only. If you catch that movie and don’t know what the line is, then you can go () yourself!