Argo fuck yourself!

Great director. Great story. Great cast. Great cinematography. Great costumes. Great dialogue. That adds up to a five star film.

Ben Affleck is a great director…is an example of a sentence I never imagined saying ten, or even six years ago. But the facts are the facts. From Gone Baby Gone I know that he can direct others, direct in Boston, and manage a small budget. With The Town he showed that he could direct himself and handle a large budget film. Here Affleck shows that he can travel far afield of the present and Boston to make the best film of his career.

Argo is an amazing true story. A part of a story that sticks out in the minds of every American conscious in 1979—the Iranian hostage crisis. The film starts at the embassy, as shown above with a photograph of the actual storming. Every scene in the US exists within the context of that ongoing situation. But the story focuses on the plight of six particular US Foreign Service officers who sneak out and get taken in by the Canadian ambassador. This tale tells of their rescue with the assistance of the CIA, and in particular, of CIA Agent Tony Mendez. That is enough for a great story. But it gets better! Mendez gets the idea of using the cover of a fake Hollywood movie to get them out, which is actually even funnier than it sounds.

What a cast! The funniest member of the cast is a tie between John Goodman–makeup artist John Chambers–and Alan Arkin–director Lester Siegel.  My favorite humorous scene, however, is when Arkin bullshits with Richard Kind over the rights to the “Argo” screenplay. That scene was like all of the comedy in Get Shorty rolled into four delightful minutes. Bryan Cranston does the best job of being angry as a CIA bigwig. In an amazing twist, Ben Affleck plays Mendez as a more realistic Jack Ryan. Amazing because Ben Affleck got his shot to play Jack Ryan in the unsuccessful Sum of All Fears. All six of the trapped Foreign Service officers showed the tension, pressure, and stakes exceptionally. The only one I recognized was Tate Donovan, who played the ineffectual senior official, but he did so without seeming obnoxiously ineffectual. Lastly, Farshad Farahat deserves credit for playing an Iranian Guardsman whose interrogation took my breath away a couple of times out of concern for the Americans trying to escape.

1979~ Tehran looked real. That the film showed the late 70’s in the US convincingly is not that noteworthy, but Iran was a challenge. I have no idea where this film was shot, but it looked like they went back in time and shot in between the student mobs who raided the US Embassy. It looked so real that I could not help getting angry. Angry in a way that is inconsistent with being born after the hostages were released. I believe that those costumes helped establish that reality, as did the wonderful shots around Washington, Los Angeles and Tehran.

© Ben Affleck

The dialogue was the last great element in this film. Having John Goodman tell actor/director Ben Affleck, “You can teach a rhesus monkey how to be a director in a day,” was perfect. It fit the film, it got a laugh to lighten the mood, and it was meta-comedy. Throughout the film comedy lightened the tension amazingly. That in turn highlighted the tense moments that always appeared around every corner. There was a wonderful absurdity to the situation of six people stuck in a house trying to flee a country by posing as a film crew, acknowledged when Scoot McNairy’s Foreign Service officer says, “This is the part where we are expected to say that this is so crazy it just might work?” and calls bullshit. Still, this was like the preview claimed, the best bad idea they had. By far.