Argo is Ben Affleck’s latest offering that is screened at this year’s BFI London Film Festival. The movie is based on a true story and takes place during the 1979 Iranian Revolution. The US embassy in Tehran is overrun by Islamic militants and six American staff members escape and find refuge with Canadian ambassador Ken Taylor (Victor Garber).
There are no clear paths to get out of the country and this is when CIA exfiltration expert Tony Mendez (Ben Affleck) draws a plan to get them out of Iran. He stages a location scout in Iran for a fake movie using vital crew roles as the cover for the hostages.
To make his plan believable, he teams up with Oscar-winning make-up artist John Chambers (John Goodman) and producer Lester Siegel (Alan Arkin) to do Argo. The script for the supposed movie needs desert settings and a chase through a marketplace that’s perfect for Iran.
Now that the fake production company is made, they staged an elaborate full-costume rehearsal reading that lands them on Variety and legitimizes the movie as a Hollywood project. Mendez goes inside enemy lines as producer Kevin Harkin, bringing fake passports for the six hostages. He briefs them about their film industry alter-egos. All of these are happening while CIA supervisor Jack O’Donnell tries to maneuver around the bureaucracy to find a more conventional solution to the problem.
Argo is a Hollywood satire as well as a tense spy thriller. Affleck pokes fun at the movie industry. It has the right balance of humor and dramatic elements with the tonal shifts managed well. It is a good cat and mouse chase that delivers up to the end.
As a mainstream thriller, Argo is a good one. The production crew does a good job of bringing the audience back to the 70s, with everything looking authentic right down to the smallest details. Observers already expect it to be nominated in the next Academy Awards.