‘Argo’ will be remembered come Oscar time
What’s an absurd idea for escaping a revolution that just might work? Pretend it’s a movie shoot.
True stories made into movies require the touch of a master to ignite sweaty suspense since likely the outcome is a given. Director Ben Affleck mixes drama, filmmaking chuckles, and hold your breath, eyes glued to the screen intensity as a CIA operative runs a stinging con on the Iranian government during the hostage crisis in 1979.
After Iranian students took United States diplomats and workers hostage, they threatened them with death for representing America. The ordeal lasted 444 days.
During the takeover, six Americans flee the embassy through a back route and find refuge at the Canadian ambassador’s home. The vigil slowly escalates reaching moments comparable to scenes from the Jewish family of Anne Frank hiding from Nazis during World War II.
For the six trapped escapees, their plight becomes more life threatening as the days increase.
Affleck shares this “only bad idea we got” with American viewers in a tense, yet laid back manner. The latter stems from mixing the eccentricities of filmmaking and the blunders of bureaucracy into a stew pot of unbelievable stupidity and similar brilliance. If the intelligence community had kept their tea leaves greased prior to the takeover, the stalemate could have been mitigated. It’s the playing out of waiting for someone else who is thousands of miles away and who has too many layers of authority for authorization of anything not benign.to make a decision.
The ruse depends on excruciatingly documented details and buzz exposure, not to mention nerves of concrete, to assume life at stake identities on the fly.
Destined for awards time remembrance, “Argo’s” compelling stone-faced, soil your pants live or die moments captivate. Imagine “The Sting” on a “Mission Impossible” caper (think TV series, not Tom Cruise) sans weapons and special effects.
Affleck pumps up the volume including a fake U.S. embassy firing squad execution and the increasing jitters of the six escapees remaining inside and hidden. A key thrill scene has a “guest” peer out the window to observe an impromptu revolutionary guard murder of a shop owner. Watch for a claustrophobic, hail Mary VW slow roll through a shouting and battering crowd.
As the mayhem of Tehran instills shivers, the quirks, egos and the pompousness that is the Hollywood “green lighting” process prompts equal laughs to the brain dead D.C. administrators who propose 300 mile bike rides or missionary masquerades where there was no history of a compassionate mission.