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2012 | 120 min | R | 2.39:1



1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

User reviews

2 user reviews

Movie appeal



Theatrical release date

 12 October, 2012
 07 November, 2012

Country of origin

 United States

Box office




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Screenshots from Argo Blu-ray

Argo Preview  

 / 10
Preview by Brian Orndorf, October 11, 2012

If the triumph of “Gone Baby Gone” and “The Town” wasn’t enough to solidify Ben Affleck as a directorial force to be reckoned with, “Argo” is a feature that should silence even his most persistent critics. A nail-biter of the highest order, “Argo” is a crackerjack mix of world politics, classic screen suspense, and knowing Hollywood ribbing, creating a strange cocktail of fact and fiction that Affleck handles with an exquisite cinematic polish. Riveting from start to finish, the effort manages to maintain a firm grip on a harrowing international incident while keeping an eye on the basic needs of dramatic tension. There aren’t many filmmakers capable of executing this style of tonal juggling anymore, and now Affleck has nailed his third consecutive attempt.

With the rise of Ayatollah Khomeini and the Iranian Revolution arriving at the gates of the U.S. Embassy in 1979, six employees (including Clea DuVall and Tate Donovan) decide to make a break out the back, hoping to avoid the violent mob that’s infiltrated the building. Taking refuge in the Canadian Embassy under Ken Taylor’s (Victor Garber) care, the group begins a long, agonizing wait for a rescue, with days turning into months, leaving them unsure if they’ll ever leave Iran alive. Tasked with brainstorming a workable method of retrieval, C.I.A. specialist Tony Mendez (Ben Affleck) comes up with an oddball idea to build an identity as a Hollywood studio seeking entrance to Iran on a location scout for their upcoming sci-fi blockbuster “Argo,” looking to leave with the six diplomats as his faux film crew. Employing industry vets Lester Siegel (Alan Arkin) and John Chambers (John Goodman), Mendez begins to arrange the particulars of movie publicity and production, striving to come off legit enough to successfully distract the Iranian government.

Based on true events given dramatic shape in a magazine article by Joshuah Bearman, “Argo” is a bizarre motion picture that works as both a lesson on the continued volatility of the Middle East and a spry Spielbergian caper, requiring the skills of a director capable of summoning geopolitical horror with a pinch of mischief, without losing the ability to smoothly steer the material. That “Argo” is cohesive and blessed with a rousing forward momentum is a minor miracle, showcasing Affleck’s gift with atmospheric changes as the script (credited to Chris Terrio) weaves between the Hollywood men on a B-movie mission and growling Iranian unrest, with the nation overturned, looking to the Embassy Hostage Crisis as a show of force against American interests in the land, a situation once heavily lubricated by previous regime. “Argo” isn’t a light film, yet Affleck doesn’t chain the feature to a cement block, keeping his focus on the dramatic value of the conflict and the outlandishness of Mendez’s C.I.A. plan, electing to make a traditional thriller before political zombification sets in.

“Argo” freely depicts Iran as an insane asylum, with Mendez cautious about his moves, worried he’ll trigger the ire of those in charge. It’s a grim picture in some respects, keeping the stakes fresh through images of public executions and frighteningly casual community shootings, keeping pressure in play even during expositional scenes. However, the effort can be amusing, especially when the Hollywood plan kicks into high gear, requiring the purchase of the “Argo” script and the development of the movie’s marketing. There’s even a public read-through of the “Star Wars” rip-off, complete with costume tributes to the sci-fi entertainment highlights of the early 1980s. The escapism is enticing, yet Affleck stifles broad displays of comedy, keeping the Hollywood antics to a few chuckles and a round of inside jokes. While it’s a gas to watch the C.I.A. figure out how to sell a fake film, “Argo” doesn’t chew bubble gum for very long, returning to the discouraging embassy dilemma, finding more value in the anxiety of the event than its tempting satirical potential.

The final act is devoted to the elaborate steps of the delicate “Argo” plan, supported by an ensemble of phenomenal performances, with Affleck taking starring duties as the stoic, committed Mendez, a company man also striving to be a better father between missions. Affleck is appealingly confident with critical flashes of vulnerability. Also exceptional is Bryan Cranston as C.I.A. boss Jack O’Donnell, sinking his teeth into a testy supporting role the screenplay should’ve made more room for. The acting hits all the precise notes of trepidation, while Affleck mines the pressure masterfully, with the picture’s closing 20 minutes a perfect storm of tight editing, fluid camerawork, and choked thespian reaction, sure to give pulse rates and theater armrests a thorough workout.

“Argo” is outstanding, richly detailed and stirringly constructed. It also reinforces Affleck’s value as a director, once again contributing an approachable, meaningful take on a combustible, complex event, showing remarkable faith in the essentials of screen suspense and political edge.

Starring: Ben Affleck, Bryan Cranston, John Goodman, Kyle Chandler, Clea DuVall, Chris Messina
Director: Ben Affleck

» See full cast & crew

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