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LFF Review: Argo

Ben Affleck has been picking some interesting projects, of late, with several films based on literary adaptations, showcasing both his directorial efforts and acting ability. Earning universal praise for, directorial debut, Gone Baby Gone and his superb follow up The Town. Which is probably the reason why producer, George Clooney, hand-picked him to lead and direct his next feature, Argo.

Argo tells the true story of a CIA mission to safely ex-filtrate six U.S. Embassy staff in-hiding, at the Canadian Ambassador’s Residence, during the Iran Hostage Crisis between 1979-80. Affleck plays the CIA agent, Tony Mendez, who is charged with carrying out the mission. Mendez proposes an elaborate cover story, which involves him masquerading as the producer of a low-budget sci-fi film, on a location scout in Iran. There he must smuggle the six Americans through customs, as his film crew under the false Canadian identities provided, back home to safety.

The full story of this caper was only de-classified in 1997, while it was brought to international attention as an article in Wired Magazine, published in the 2007, titled “How the CIA Used a Fake Sci-Fi Flick to Rescue Americans from Tehran” by Joshuah Bearman. So up until that point, the CIA were never credited with the rescue and Canada took full responsibility for the success. The reason for this? The CIA did not want compromise the safety of the remaining hostages in Iran.

Affleck’s film is well paced and even though it deals with a very serious topic, the absurdity of the caper is not lost on the people involved, and so the first two acts are balanced with a good sense of humour and drama throughout. The third act maintains suspense right up until the very end – Although it does get a little too carried away in the final minutes.

I have to say that it is quite rare to see a film which portrays the CIA and Hollywood in such a positive light. Usually the CIA would be portrayed as a shady and murky organisation not to be trusted. While Hollywood would be sleazy and dumb, but here you get to see the real heroics of the men and women trying to do their best to make a bad situation better.

When looking at the original coverage, of the time, you can see that Affleck has taken every step to ensure that authenticity stretches form frame to frame. His regular production designer, Sharon Seymour, does a superb job recreating the detail from that period. The score also deserves an honourable mention, as composer Alexandre Desplat, provides the crucial heartbeat to the tension-filled storyline.

Supporting actor Bryan Cranston is superb as usual, and seems to be the go to guy these days in Hollywood, popping up in all sorts of interesting roles over the last year, when he’s not knocking on doors in AMC’s Breaking Bad. While, acting legends, Alan Arkin and John Goodman provide more of the lighter, humour-filled, moments throughout the film.

Argo signifies the turning point in Affleck’s career. He is now a proven director and any project he does, going forward, will be meet with high expectations.

GRADE: B+

Released in the UK: 7th November

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  1. […] Ben Affleck is becoming a good director to look out for. With Gone Baby Gone and The Town under his belt he’s proven he has a good eye for all things cinematic. Using his background in Middle Eastern Politics (Which he studied at college), Affleck delivered an intelligent and well executed thriller, which didn’t fall for the obvious bad guy tropes found in lesser films. Affleck is surely the next Redford for this generation. [FULL REVIEW] […]

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