Friday, November 02, 2012

Argo

If you haven't been to see Argo, go and see it.  Ben Affleck's new movie is an accomplished piece, full of suspense, excellent acting (including Affleck himself), a well-told story and a film that has you sitting on the edge of your seat in more than one place.

The opening sequence, in which a mob of Iranians storm the American embassy in Teheran is quite terrifying, and the last half hour or more of the movie is nail-biting as the six 'Canadians' attempt to make it out of the airport.  

Okay, have I said enough to convince you this is worth watching?   When the story isn't in suspense mode, we have some wonderful performances (and great lines) from John Goodman and Alan Arkin as two old-timer Hollywood movie-makers who can turn a turkey in to an eagle but who, in this case want the turkey to remain a turkey.

The movie tells the true story of six American embassy workers who escaped out the back door of the embassy when it was stormed by Iranians angry at the US for harbouring the Shah, a man who was apparently much hated by his people for his opulent behaviour and more.  (At that stage they didn't know they were exchanging one devil for another, in the form of the Ayatollah Khomeini.)   The six men and women managed to find shelter at the Canadian embassy (at this point the Canadians were still okay as far as the Iranians were concerned).  They hid there for nearly three months, while the Yanks back home figured out a way to get them to safety.

Finally a plan to turn them into a Canadian move-making team scouting for locations in Iran was hit upon; ridiculous as it seemed, it was even less ridiculous than some of the other ideas the US Government came up with.  Ben Affleck plays Tony Mendez who was given the job of getting the job of going to Iran and getting the Americans out.  He was the right man: he had contacts in Hollywood who set up a fake production company, and he had the nous and courage to walk into Iran, and persuade the American that this was somehow a good plan.  (Not all of them agreed!)

Affleck shows utter assurance throughout not only in his acting, but even more in his directing, which manages to give background to the story in a few short minutes (much as the first film in the Lord of the Rings trilogy did), enables us to clearly understand what's going on at all times, and presents the story via a huge cast, many of them familiar faces in small roles.  He even manages to give enough personality to the many characters for us not to feel in any way disengaged from them.  This film marks Affleck as a major director: he never eschews story-telling for action sequences (though there are several) and we never think...uh, oh, lots of people running round and lots of guns.  There are lots of guns - a scary number, in fact, many of them in the hands of women - and there are plenty of big crowd scenes, but these are so expertly handled that they never revert to filler.

This is movie-making at its best.  Go see it!



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