In 1979, the American embassy in Iran was invaded by Iranian revolutionaries and several Americans are taken hostage. However, six manage to escape to the official residence of the Canadian Ambassador and the CIA is eventually ordered to get them out of the country. With few options, exfiltration expert Tony Mendez devises a daring plan: to create a phony Canadian film project looking to shoot in Iran and smuggle the Americans out as its production crew. With the help of some trusted Hollywood contacts, Mendez creates the ruse and proceeds to Iran as its associate producer. However, time is running out with the Iranian security forces closing in on the truth while both his charges and the White House have grave doubts about the operation themselves. (© IMDb)
The story is a dramatization of the 1980 joint CIA-Canadian secret operation, and this one is the best example of a situation when the real life story is much richer and much more fascinating than what film plots can offer you. And having the story ready to use, the suspense is the king. It is extremely easy to fall into the trap of retelling the story rather than giving an interesting spin to it, leading to a boring and difficult-to-watch-without-falling asleep kind of film.
The writer of Argo, Chris Terrio, luckily for all of us managed to avoid the fallacy mentioned. Moreover, to say that this film has some suspense would be a gross understatement of the actual situation. From the very first seconds until the catharsis, this movie grabs and never lets go. The story is literally suspended at the very start, when the Iranian revolutionaries capture the embassy, and it lets off the hook only when you see predictable, but nevertheless eagerly awaited ending. A couple of interesting spins were given to otherwise pretty straightforward story, and it became probably the best thriller of the year. Crazy, illogical, daredevil operation at the heart of the enemy’s capital is a fascinating roller-coaster ride. Try it once, and you will beg for more.
The problem is only in the director, Ben Affleck. Contrary to expectations, he managed to direct the movie very well – it is coherent, not chaotic and highly watchable. He doesn’t hold up as an actor, and that is really a shame. He plays the leading role, and he is not up to the task: he is not persuasive, he looks as if he is not convinced himself. The rest of the cast is good though, maybe it is because the actual task at hand was not very difficult – after all, this is the story based on real life…
But all the shortcomings, such as poor performance by Affleck, or several flaws in the plot, do not matter. This film plunges you straight into action, and never loses momentum, throwing more and more spins on the story and keeping the audience entertained. Worth watching, even if only to admire the skills of the screenwriter. Great thriller, fantastic entertainment, emotional roller-coaster, one little amusement park. It gets the heart pounding, and what else do you need from a film?