Freelance writer. Melbourne based cinephile. Fond of food.
In the category of how has a true story this good never been made into a film before, it's hard to go past Argo. Admittedly, it's only been declassified information for 15 years, but it's such an inspiring, exciting and original story, it's hard to believe that those involved haven't become household names.
The year is 1979, the Iranian people have usurped the CIA-backed government and are calling for the blood of the recently exiled leader, holding American citizens hostage until he is handed back by the Carter government. Little do the Iranians know that there are six Americans who escaped the U.S. Embassy as it was being invaded. In time-honoured Hollywood style, the clock is ticking to get them out of the country before their secret is out.
With so few options, the CIA come up with an idea so out of left-field, you'd be telling yourself it was too absurd to be believed - except it actually happened. They hired a film producer, bought a screenplay languishing in limbo, and got the media to start reporting that a production was about to start in Tehran - for the sole purpose of allowing the six hidden Americans to masquerade as film crew and leave Iran.
To have a real-life story that sounds like a Hollywood script wrapped around the process of making a Hollywood film creates all sorts of layers and ironies. There's also something very satisfying about watching a silly looking sci-fi fantasy movie being made while also responding to the deeper drama of lives in the balance.
The film is dense with clever dialogue, and rolls along at a breathless pace, all the while crediting the audience with enough intelligence to take it all in.
Ben Affleck has already proven himself an excellent director with his first two features, Gone Baby Gone and The Town, but Argo is his best work to date. The crack ensemble cast is flawless and the wide screen lensing is a sight to behold. From the gripping opening scenes, this is pretty much non-stop tension that just keeps escalating, with more than a few flashes of humour courtesy of the on-screen movie moguls. Even if the film's closing moments are a little too Hollywood, this can be excused as a tip of the hat to tinsel town.
Argo will no doubt have many admirers, and as a film about filmmaking (amongst other things), it won't be a surprise if come Oscar time next year, that admiration translates into a few gold statues.