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Argo movie poster

Argo: Movie Review

Genre: Drama, Thriller
Rated: R
Directed by: Ben Affleck

Starring: Ben Affleck, John Goodman, Alan Arkin, Bryan Cranston, Victor Garber, Clea DuVall, Tate Donovan
Released by: Warner Bros. Pictures

Running time: 120 minutes

In Short: Ben Affleck does triple duty as actor, director and producer of this fast-paced, exciting drama based on a very real story from America's recent past.

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Ben Affleck's Brilliant Take on History

If your idea of a good time at the movies involves a smart, taut script that tells a real-life story of action and heroism, all set in a time of dangerous political unrest, then "Argo" is the film for you.

Ben Affleck stars, produces and directs this tense, top-notch drama that centers around the Iran hostage crisis that began in 1979 in Tehran. As hatred in Iran for America's protection of the deposed Shah heightened tensions between the two countries, things boiled over and the American Embassy was attacked and taken by armed protestors on November 4. Thus began 444 days of crisis, as 52 Americans were held hostage inside the embassy.

But that's only the frame of the story that "Argo" tells so masterfully. For there were six other Americans in the embassy that day, who were able to escape the gun-toting hordes, slipping off into the city streets unnoticed. The six (four men and two women) found sanctuary in the home of the Canadian ambassador, where they hid for 79 days without the knowledge of the Iranians.

The movie follows those six, along with Tony Mendez (Affleck), the CIA operative who comes up with the way to get them out. He suggests that they pose as a Canadian movie crew, in Iran to scout locations for a Hollywood film called "Argo." It's a risky scenario, one that involves enlisting real Tinseltown pros who help set up an actual production office for the movie. It's an elaborate but necessary cover, and one that ultimately paid off.

John Goodman and Ben Affleck in Argo Ben Affleck in Argo

There's so much to like about "Argo" it is hard to know where to begin. The look of the film is dead-on 1980, from costumes to hairstyles to the slightly grainy picture quality; Affleck's deft pacing and movement back and forth, from Tehran to CIA headquarters in Virginia to Hollywood, keeps the action ripping along, with never a dull moment; there's fine acting across the board, with special kudos to John Goodman and Alan Arkin as the Hollywood insiders who make the faux film production happen and lend levity to the deadly serious subject; and a climax that seriously keeps you on the edge of your seat, even while knowing the eventual outcome.

Perhaps the most interesting thing about the movie is how relevant so much of it is to what is happening in the Middle East today, more than 30 years since the hostage crisis occurred. It's pretty clear that everything old is new again when it comes to America's involvement in that part of the world, which is a somewhat chilling thought to be left with as the credits roll.


Reviewed by Jenny Peters and Alain Gayot


(Updated: 02/21/13 CT)

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