Short Reviews: Argo (2012)


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Ben Affleck and America. These are the things you will love by the end of Argo. Tall, Irish-Americanly handsome Ben Affleck and noble hostage-rescuing America.

You probably know where I’m going with this, but there’s a hindrance in fully appreciating what a good film Argo could have been if you know what enormous liberties have been taken with the actual events that the film is based on.

A filmic portrayal of the (real) famous ‘Canadian Caper’ to rescue six American diplomats from revolutionary Iran at the dawn of the 80s, the film swept the box office and the critical podiums too last year, and it was one of the more hot-topic films – everyone had seen it, and everyone had loved it.

And there’s plenty to love – it’s a well-acted, brilliantly put together film with some truly superb sequences and utter nail-biting tension – but there’s so much that plays fast and loose with the actual history.

For those unaware, the film portrays the exploits of a joint venture between the CIA and the Canadian government to rescue six Americans from the middle of Iran during the revolution and subsequent hostage crisis that started in 1979 and spilled over into the early years of the 1980s. An operation was put into place to retrieve the six diplomats from Iran by passing them off as a fake film crew, looking for a suitable location to shoot the (fake) movie “Argo.”

The historical inaccuracies come in to the fact that the involvement in the operation was mostly Canadian, and that Tony Mendez (the Affleck character) was a) a short man of Hispanic descent and b) part of a collaborative team, not a sole hero as he’s portrayed in the film.

But, rather than letting the truth get in the way of a good yarn, one just needs to look at it as a fictional retelling of the events, and it becomes incredibly easy to overlook the flaws.

As I said above, the film is very, very well made, with a lot of understated performances that complement each other perfectly. That Mr. Affleck knows how to make a good talkie.

However, as an actor, he’s probably the weakest thing in the film; his performance is adequate, but the character becomes very uninteresting after a while, even though the film is trying to portray him as the most heroic of American heroes, and a sole voice of reason in the situation.

John Goodman and Alan Arkin are good fun as the producers who help pass off the lie of the film (although “Argo fuck yourself” is nowhere near as entertaining a line as the film clearly thinks it is).

So despite some flaws and bland character work, yes Argo is a really good movie, from a man who seems to be only capable of directing equally good movies. It’s just a shame that this version of the  Canadian Caper features so little in the way of Canada.

However, still very much worth your time and/or money.

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