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Argo - Film Review

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by Matt Elliot Taylor (subscribe)
"Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans." - John Lennon
Ar-Go And See It
Theatrical Release Poster (image courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures)

Based upon a declassified true story, Argo begins in 1979 where six American embassy employees are hiding at the Canadian ambassador's residence in Tehran after a huge riot results in the infiltration of the U.S. embassy there. It is only a matter of time before they are discovered by the Iranian military but the C.I.A. is devising a plan for their rescue and safe return to the United States. Enter Tony Mendez (Ben Affleck), a brave agent who proposes that he go into Iran pretending to be location scouting for a fake Hollywood movie where the six aforementioned hostages pose as the principal crew.

Ben Affleck returns to the director's chair after his solid heist thriller The Town [2010] and continues to prove himself as a skillful director. Affleck deserves an upcoming Oscar nomination for his great craftsmanship in developing a genuinely intense thriller that does not let up until the final minutes. From the opening scene involving the riotous break-in of the embassy, the pace is consistently fast without being careless. There is just enough screen time to establish time and place and to identify with key players involving the joint US-Canada operation, the key to the success of which hinders on the elaborate nature of the lie. Enlisting the help of Academy-Award winning makeup artist John Chambers (here portrayed by John Goodman) and cynical veteran producer Lester Siegel (Alan Arkin), Mendez develops an entire press release for a science-fiction fantasy adventure called Argo, funnily enough. Everything from the shooting script to posters to storyboards and even costumes, sets and table reads, Mendez leaves nothing to chance as we are constantly reminded of just how scrutinizing and brutal the Iranian military are, and you know what - you will whole-heatedly believe it.

Tony Mendez (Affleck) discusses the plan with his superior (Bryan Cranston) (image courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures)

Where the film draws much of its intensity and strength from is its sheer believability and how it manages to always be building tension. There was not one point during the film where I thought to myself "they could have done without this scene". Every scene serves to reinforce the seriousness of the situation and propel the plot forward, right up to its nail-biting climax.

The six members of the 'film crew' (image courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures)

Argo encapsulates why we go to the movies as it defines the movie-going experience with its erratic energy, smart dialogue, genuine suspense and even a few belly laughs to boot. This is a highly recommended endeavour for anyone who wants a thrill, a laugh and simply just a great time at the cinemas. Sandwiched with a documentary-like prologue and epilogue, the dramatic 'meat in the middle' is as tasty as it is rare - particularly nowadays - and can be digested by a wide appreciative audience if you give it the attention it deserves.

This is one of the best, most nerve-wrecking thrillers of recent memory, and possesses much justification for a Best Picture Oscar nod.

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Why? Quite possibly the best film of the year
When: In cinemas now - wide national release
Where: Your local cinema
Cost: Check your local cinema for details
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