Sunday, December 16, 2012


During the Iran Hostage crisis of 1979/80, six staff at the U.S. embassy escaped and hid at the Canadian Ambassador’s residence. The White House and the CIA had a number of different ideas to retrieve them from Iran but the extraction mission was given to Tony Mendez who would go into Iran posing as a Hollywood Movie producer doing a location scout for Argo, a middle-eastern themed science-fiction adventure film. The plan was that he would then leave with his “crew”, the Americans holed up at the Canadian embassy.

Unlike Matt Damon or Tom Cruise, Ben Affleck doesn’t have people running into the movie theatre to watch him act anymore but after his success behind the camera with The Town, I’d be one of the people running into said theatre to watch a movie he directed.  As the subject matter was very close to home [intelligence agent creates an elaborate and precarious plot to get the job done] and based on a practically unbelievable true story that only came to light many years after the fact [much as my own will I hope] this was something I was really looking forward to.

I doubt anyone was disappointed. Affleck’s attention to detail in recreating the period was staggering, even down to the old red-background Warner Brothers logo. Knowing what the story was may have prompted an idea that the film would drag a little. However, through Affleck’s superb direction and focusing on the significant events [with a few elements of creative licence near the end] in this dramatic tale meant that the tension was nail-biting from opening to climax. Affleck’s portrayal of Mendez was clinical yet empathic. Alan Arkin as Lester Siegel and John Goodman as John Chambers as were superb and gave the project the air of controlled levity preventing it from descending into farce.  Special mention for the usual stony-faced Victor Garber as Ambassador Taylor who even smiled during one scene.

I normally dislike true stories as often a directors ego or opinion [or in worse cases a studio’s political agenda] will get in the way of the truth, but I can’t find any evidence of deliberate mischaracterisation or misinterpretation here save for changes required for dramatic licence and to fit the movie into a reasonable run time [sorry Brits, New Zealanders you got the asshole stick due to pacing]. Thanks for being honest and true to the important facts Ben and for giving us this gem.

Colonel Creedon Rating: ****1/2

No comments: