- Colin Fraser
FOUR STARS The CIA's 'least worst idea' intends to rescue hostages trapped inside Iran.
DRAMA USA English #ARGO
Starring Ben Affleck, Bryan Cranston
To the ongoing surprise of some, Ben Affleck has become a director of note. Following the powerful debut Gone Baby Gone and the significant achievement which was The Town, he's returned with one of this years best films. A political thriller which redefines edge-of-seat entertainment, ARGO takes a declassified document and gives the frankly ridiculous story such gravitas that it's impossible not to be enthralled by this riveting movie.
Recapping the historically notorious chain of events in 1979 that led to America's hostage crisis in Iran, Argo recounts the CIA's 'least worst idea' which rescued six diplomats hiding in the Canadian embassy from Iran's murderous authority. Mission leader Tony Mendez (Affleck) flies to Tehran posing as the producer of a Hollywood sci-fi epic (Argo) scouting Persian landscapes. His plan is to fly home with the staffers now posing as film crew. While the chances of success are small, with death the likely outcome, failure has unimaginable repercussions. Although the Mendez plan is crazy, it's better than the second least worse idea; cycling in winter across the border to safety.
ARGO unfolds along classic story telling lines and is stronger for a general lack of trickery, relying instead on the tense power of Chris Terrio's screenplay, the directing talent of Affleck and his assembled cast: John Goodman and Alan Arkin as the Hollywood front are particularly effective. Although a misleading trailer suggests a film that rises from a comic basis, this is pure thriller and a powerfully effective one at that. Audiences unfamiliar with the details (that's most of us) are treated to a film where anything could, and probably will, happen. Even when all the narrative cards have been played, such is Affleck's deft touch that you can't be entirely sure there's nothing hiding up his sleeve, or that of the Iranian government for that matter.
The effect is mesmerising cinema that is entertaining, provocative and challenging. Part Hollywood action, part history lesson, Argo is an astonishing example of precision filmmaking, from grounded, vintage cinematography to the slow ratchet job of Terrio's terrifically tense script. For once you can believe the hype and you will watch this from the edge of your seat.