"“There's gonna be a few small, naked gold men standing tall on Affleck's mantelpiece come February...”"
If you were at all worried that all of the great true stories had been snapped up already and brought to the big screen then think again; because Argo - a dramatisation of the top secret operation to rescue six American diplomats from Iran, had been declassified in 1997, yet now, 15 years on, has finally made it to the silver screen, and it's a story so perfect for a Hollywood feature, you'll be shocked you haven't seen this one before, but conversely, absolutely thrilled you've finally been given the opportunity.
Directed by Ben Affleck, the Oscar-winning talent also stars as the lead role Tony Mendez, an exfiltration expert of the CIA who in 1979 was brought in to help plot the rescue of six fugitive American's, seeking refuge at the Canadian embassy in Tehran. The six in hiding managed to escape from the American embassy following an invasion from Iranian revolutionaries that saw several diplomats held hostage, yet while the escapees identity and whereabouts remain unknown, escorting them out of the dangerous and highly-secured nation will be no easy task.
Having worked through a number of ideas to help secure their safety, Mendez devises an audacious plan, to escape Tehran posing as a production crew on a scouting mission for the films setting. However, in order to make this as believable and therefore less dangerous as possible, Mendez needs a film. So alongside make-up artist John Chambers (John Goodman) and director Lester Siegel (Alan Arkin), Hollywood starts pretending to make the sci-fi blockbuster 'Argo'.
Argo is one of those films that just seems to tick every single box. It's bears a great script, is wonderfully directed, well performed across the board (including Bryan Cranston as CIA agent Jack O'Donnell), and the cinematography is outstanding. Oh and to top it all of, it's patriotic too. You know what that mean's don't you? There's gonna be a few small, naked gold men standing tall on Affleck's mantelpiece come February.
The greatest aspect of all, however, is how incredibly tense Argo is, as you literally sit there on the edge-of-your-seat, mouth slightly open, as you watch as this story unravels in front of your eyes. Affleck sets the film up brilliantly as we build towards the dramatic finale, as the last 20 minutes in particular makes for an excruciating, yet utterly compelling watch. Helped along greatly by a sharp, witty script (“Argo-fuckyourself”) and a pulsating soundtrack, courtesy of the great Alexandre Desplat.
Although that leads to the film's only visible criticism, in that it does feel somewhat Hollywoodised. There are just so many potential problems that arise within the narrative, and agonizingly close calls, as it becomes rather apparent that much of this “true story” has been enhanced for the cinematic experience. Of course that is always going to be the case, but in Argo it's strikingly obvious.
However, it's a small issue, and any vexations in that respect are soon made irrelevant as what Argo may lose in credibility, it certainly makes up for in facial hair. Capturing that 70's feel brilliantly, the array of moustaches and beards on show – in particular Scoot McNairy's valiant offering – are worth going for alone.
You've got to hand it to Affleck, the one-time star of a J'Lo music video is fast becoming one of the most important filmmakers in world cinema, showcasing what is a quite natural talent in making a great movie. There is this one wonderful moment when Affleck looks up to the sky in the film, with a knowing nod of the head to the heavens, as if he's saying “Thanks God. This is my masterpiece”.