By Brian Slattery
When I first watched Argo I hadn’t given it much due for how great a film it actually is. I did recognize it was a good movie with a compelling story and a mix of comedy and drama that brought balance to the movie. Given a second watching I really appreciated some of the finer details in the film.
Set mostly in 1980 Iran, Argo is the story of a CIA operation to rescue six “houseguests” from the Canadian embassy, with the help of both Canada and a select few people in Hollywood. The “houseguests” had escaped the US embassy in Iran when the facility was stormed by hundreds of Iranian revolutionaries, angered by the US’s decision to bring the Shah of Iran in for asylum instead of allowing him to be tried (and likely killed) in the Iranian justice system.
The plan to get the Americans out of Iran involves going into false production on a science fiction film named Argo. The CIA has to make the film appear legitimate in both Iran and, more importantly, in Hollywood. Once the cover is sufficiently created, CIA exfiltration agent Tony Mendes (Ben Affleck) is sent in with fake credentials for the Americans to help them escape.
What I like the most about the movie is the portrayal of the two different worlds in the film. The Hollywood world, seemingly so carefree and oblivious to the plights of the rest of the country, and the Iranian world where any wrong move could spell doom for any and all of the six Americans. One of the best recurring visuals that describes this throughout the film is the image of the Ayatollah constantly in the background, representing how scrutinized and searched for anyone with American ties is in Iran.
While there is no stand out performance, the entire ensemble does an excellent job, especially the Farsi-speaking cast. And while it was deservedly left out of the acting nominations, I feel that Affleck’s directing was possibly the biggest surprise snub of the Oscars. To pull together such a great ensemble cast, and get a brilliant group performance, he is possibly the most deserving director in this year’s crop of Best Picture nominees.
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