Argo - Trailer
Argo is a dramatic thriller that chronicles the life-or-death covert operation to rescue six Americans, which unfolded behind the scenes of the Iran hostage crisis.PT2M25S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-1ycoz 620 349 May 9, 2012
- Biopic, Drama, Thriller
- Running time
- 120 min
- Ben Affleck
- Screen writer
- Chris Terrio
- Ben Affleck, Bryan Cranston, John Goodman, Alan Arkin, Tate Donovan, Chris Messina, Zeljko Ivanek
- OFLC rating
BASED on a true story, Ben Affleck's third feature as director gives new meaning to the term "Hollywood escapism". During the Iranian Revolution of 1979, rebels took over the American embassy in Tehran, holding the staff hostage. Six found a haven in the home of the Canadian ambassador, while the State Department pondered how to get them back to the US.
Finally, a CIA operative named Tony Mendez, played by Affleck, hit on an audacious plan. He would enter Iran in the guise of a Canadian producer scouting locations for a Star Wars ripoff (here called Argo), and supply his fellow Americans with fake travel documents, letting them pose as members of the crew.
To corroborate their claims, a couple of Hollywood insiders were enlisted, including make-up artist John Chambers (John Goodman), who won an Oscar for his work on Planet of the Apes.
In the hands of, say, David O. Russell, this would be a perfect set-up for a screwball farce, mingling deadly serious politics with the innate frivolity of putting on a show. What if the screenwriter of the fake Argo were as crazy as the writer of "Springtime for Hitler" in The Producers? Or what if one of the Iranian officials duped by Mendez turned out to be a closet Hollywood buff with showbiz ambitions of his own?
Sadly, such possibilities are left untouched. Chris Terrio's workmanlike screenplay sticks to the outline of actual events, while Affleck's unimaginative visual choices — desaturated colours, long lenses — seem meant to signify both "realism" and a received idea of 1970s cinema. His worst decision was to cast himself in the lead role: even aside from his implausibility as a Latino, Affleck shows no trace of conman flair, frowning morosely behind his heavy beard.
Occasionally the film detours to contemplate Mendez's relationship with his estranged wife (Taylor Schilling) and young son (Aidan Sussman) — another set of allusions to 1970s convention, this time to the "troubled nuclear family" trope found in films from Kramer vs. Kra-mer to Close Encoun-ters of the Third Kind. Predictably, the mechanically suspenseful climax ends in Spielbergian schmaltz: hugs all round, the American flag flying high.
Before this, however, there are traces of a more critical point of view.
A prologue explains that the US was largely responsible for the 1953coup against Iran's democratically elected government — and hence must bear some blame for everything that followed.
The Star Wars references not only recall the name given in the 1980s to Reagan's mooted missile-defence program, but also hark back to The Men Who Stare at Goats, a more pointedly satirical docudrama that mocks the fantasy of American military power as benign (both films were produced by Smokehouse Pictures, the company owned by George Clooney with Goats director Grant Heslov).
Alongside the heroic narrative runs a vein of wisecracking humour implying, rather too glibly, that politics and showbiz are equivalent scams. Watching Iranian protests on TV, Mendez wonders if these, too, are staged for the cameras; when he plans to come to Hollywood and act like a big-shot producer without actually making anything, he's told he'll fit right in.
But only two scenes do more than hint at the poetic potential of the premise. In the first, Iranian customs inspectors peer curiously at storyboards prepared for Mendez's fake movie. We're left to wonder if these fanciful images of desert battles resonate with them on some level — or if they're merely amused at the Western taste for juvenile fantasy.
The second scene is the epilogue, with factual captions superimposed on shots of Star Wars action figures in the bedroom of Mendez's son. The Jedi Knights and stormtroopers have a kind of pathos, as if aware they could never exist outside of a boyish dream — which, in retrospect, is perhaps what Argo has been all along.