DVD review – Argo

Ben Affleck as Tony Mendez in Argo
Ben Affleck as Tony Mendez in Argo

Some of the greatest stories told are those based on true-life events.

The film Argo is one such story.

I can see why it was nominated for, and won, Best Picture at the recent Oscars.

It is gripping, intense and keeps you on the edge of your seat for the majority of the time.

Now I’m sure there has been many a good story ruined by a poor director but I think, in this case, it would have been harder to get it wrong than to succeed as Affleck has done.

He does a fine job and adds another good movie to a growing list, but the source of power in the movie is the story on which it is based.

In 1980, during a revolutionary shift in Iran, a joint CIA-Canadian operation to extract six stranded Americans from the transforming country took place.

The most feasible option presented to the CIA chiefs by Affleck’s character, Tony Mendez, involved the total fabrication of a movie, which would be used as a cover story, to get the stricken team out.

Sorting through available stories are the ever-excellent John Goodman as John Chambers, a talented make-up artist, and a brilliant performance from Alan Arkin as Lester Siegel, a Hollywood producer.

Indeed, had Arkin’s presence been slightly greater, I feel he would have pushed Christoph Waltz harder for Best Supporting Actor at the Oscars.

Settling on a science fiction yarn, the CIA gives the “nod” and the fictitious Canadian production of Argo begins.

As the media activity increases surrounding this new interstellar adventure ,so do Mendez’s efforts to train the fugitives in their cover stories and skills required to attempt to evade the forces and escape from their potential death sentences.

The pressure increases as the army becomes aware of their presence and the White House threatens to pull the plug on the whole operation, having second thoughts about its chances of success.

During the credits of the film, we are presented with the original images of the events and people involved in this harrowing adventure.

The casting by Lora Kennedy was superb; with the exception of Affleck, the actors bore an uncanny resemblance to their real-life counterparts.

I was a little unhappy with the way the British ambassadorial team was portrayed as being totally dismissive to the fugitives’ needs.

And although their efforts were clearly acknowledged by the production, the Canadians were hard done by as I understand their true role was a great deal more important.

Of course cinematic licence gives flexibility and as Affleck suggested in an interview, “It is based on a true story.” Based being the operative term!

It is a film that demonstrates that several good performances during the production of a movie – whether it be acting, producing or other roles – can be better than a few brilliant efforts.

That is why it won Best Picture and also why Affleck wasn’t nominated for Best Director.

If you haven’t already done so, watch it.

You may agree with me. If you don’t, to coin a phrase from the film, “Argo fu...”