I cannot believe that I left it so long to see this film. It was on my radar but for some reason Skyfall and Wreck-it-Ralph seemed more interesting at the time. I have to admit that once Argo started to win awards, Best Director Bafta and Golden Globe for Ben Affleck, Best Supporting Actor Golden Globe for Alan Arkin. Then the icing on the cake was Best Film Oscar and now I started to take notice. I’m afraid I’m that shallow.
Yet despite the fact that most people have now heard of Argo as that film that won the Academy Award, not many people know what it’s about. Maybe it could have been marketed better but a true story about American hostages in the Middle East is still a sensitive subject.
On November 4, 1979, Iranian activists invaded the American Embassy in Tehran. In the ensuing panic the embassy officials organise the shredding and destruction of sensitive and personal documents before being overrun. Six American diplomats manage to escape from the building and were offered sanctuary in the nearby Canadian Embassy.
Back home the CIA assist the State Department to come up with a plan to rescue the six diplomats from Iran before they are found and possibly executed by the activists. CIA supervisor Jack O’Donnell (Bryan Cranston, Hal in TVs Malcolm in the Middle) enlists the help of Tony Mendez (Ben Affleck) a CIA operative well experienced in extracting personnel from hostile situations. In his opinion the proposals that the CIA have already put forward are extremely flimsy and together with O’Donnell they submit an utterly bizarre plan to the Secretary of State that they say is “The best bad idea we have, sir, by far,”
Inspired by watching the movie ‘Battle for the Planet of the Apes’ Mendez comes up with the idea to pass off the six diplomats as movie production staff scouting for shooting locations in Iran. To authenticate the fabrication Mendez calls in some favours from two Hollywood professionals, award winning make-up artist for ‘Planet of the Apes’ John Chambers (John Goodman) and eccentric film producer Lester Siegel (Alan Arkin). From this moment Argo becomes the film that never was. Complete with casting auditions, a professional script, storyboards and press releases. Although the film can be quite intense there are a few moments of light relief from the John Goodman and Alan Arkin double act.
The amazing thing about this film is that it is all based on true events. If this was submitted as a film script it would sound ridiculous. Ben Affleck shows once again that he has a real skill for directing and racks up the tension in the last half hour of the film and will still have you biting your nails even though you may know the outcome. Affleck also produced Argo along with Grant Heslov and George Clooney as well as playing the lead role. The real Tony Mendez was awarded the Intelligence Star, one of the highest awards handed out by the CIA but unfortunately due to political reasons he was unable to keep it until the true escape story was released to the world in 1997.
Argo is still showing in cinemas until April 19 and is also available on DVD and Blu ray.
Five out of Five stars for keeping me hooked from start to finish. A must see film.