Director: Ben Affleck
Writers: Chris Terrio (screenplay), Tony Mendez (book “The Master of Disguise”) & Joshuah Bearman (article “Escape from Tehran”)
Running time: 120 mins (approx)
Certification (UK): 15
UK Release date: 7th November 2012
Watched on DVD Saturday 6th April 2013.
PLEASE NOTE: THERE MAY BE UNINTENTIONAL SPOILERS IN THIS REVIEW.
Even before it won the BAFTA and something called an ‘Oscar’ I was interested in watching this film. Ben Affleck had impressed me with ‘The Town’ and I was keen to see what else he had in his locker. I must admit he is certainly keeping the bar pretty high! Other than one, very debatable, comment about the fugitives being turned away by the British & New Zealand Embassies, it’s a pretty fine film. Here’s a very brief summary before I give you my thoughts.
After the Shah of Iran left in 1979 the country was in chaos. Fanatical religious factions took over who saw the USA as a great evil since they gave the, much hated, Shah a safe haven. This made life very difficult for the staff at the Embassy in Tehran; every day huge crowds gathered outside and chanted threats against the USA. Eventually they broke through the gates and took over the buildings but six of the staff escaped to the Canadian Ambassador’s residence. As plans were drawn up to get them out, one man, Tony Mendez (Ben Affleck) comes up with something so audacious that it might just work! They were to pose as a film crew scouting locations in Iran, but to make it plausible; they’d need to make it look real. Enter John Chambers (John Goodman) and Lester Siegel (Alan Arkin); these guys set up all the marketing and press to make it look legitimate. So Mendez sets off to Tehran with his boss, Jack O’Donnell (Bryan Cranston), holding things together in Washington. Can he get the fugitives to agree to the scam, and what’s more, can they pull it off and get out of Iran?... Guess I’d better leave you hanging there.
Beautifully made with all everything from the costumes to the technology accurate to a tee. I loved the way the film was intercut with archive news footage of the time; this really gave the audience a sense of the world at that juncture. All the performances were excellent with Ben Affleck taking centre stage, but I really enjoyed seeing Alan Arkin as a Hollywood producer; he stole it for me! There was real tension towards the end of the film; it slowly builds for quite a long time and I found that quite masterful. It’s something that has been missing from many Hollywood films for a long time now but Affleck seems to have rediscovered the art. Because it‘s a film based in real events, there’s little time for character development and I think it suffers slightly because of it. Other than that, it has some interesting songs on the soundtrack and it’s well worth a look!
SteelMonster’s verdict: HIGHLY RECOMMENDED
My score: 8.6/10.
IMDb Score: 7.9/10 (based on 182,559 votes when this review was written).
MetaScore: 86/100: (Based on 45 critic reviews provided by Metacritic.com at the time of going to press).
Rotten Tomatoes ‘Audience’ Score: 93/100 (based on 101,399 user ratings counted at the time of going to press).
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WARNING: STRONG LANGUAGE
Lester Siegel: Argo fuck yourself.
Lester Siegel: The saying goes, "What starts in farce ends in tragedy."
John Chambers: No, it's the other way around.
Lester Siegel: Who said that exactly?
John Chambers: Marx.
Lester Siegel: Groucho said that?
John Chambers: Look, if you're going to do this, you're going to do this... You can't build cover stories around a movie that doesn't exist. You need a script, you need a producer.
John Chambers: [after hearing of the plan to get the hostages out] So you want to come to Hollywood, act like a big shot...
Tony Mendez: Yeah.
John Chambers: ...without actually doing anything?
Tony Mendez: Yeah.
John Chambers: [smiles] You'll fit right in!
Joe Stafford: You really believe your little story's gonna make a difference when there's a gun to our heads?
Tony Mendez: I think my story's the only thing between you and a gun to your head.
(Note: All were working at the time of going to press)
Official Site: http://argothemovie.warnerbros.com/