Argo is a film that suitably fits in the category of films that tackle real-life events and captures them with electrifying precision and grit, and it is Ben Affleck who is taking the director's chair. With 2007's 'Gone Baby Gone' and 2010's 'The Town' stamped on his resume, Affleck proves himself as a filmmaker fueled with astonishing directorial virtuosity It is little to no wonder he was the perfect choice of this political thriller, a briskly-paced, suspense-driven rendition of the stranger-than-fiction real-life event that marked an unlikely collaboration with Hollywood and the U.S government in effort to execute one of the most daring rescue missions performed in history. The central role of the film is the Iran Hostage Crisis of 1979-1981, a world-rocking event that not only marked the beginning of the blood-drenched tensions between the United States and the Middle East but shattered with distressing effects that still linger today. Of course, like most cinematic interpretation of historical events, the film is not empty of wielding creative liberties at the expense of significant historical accuracy. Affleck's depiction of the event has been held in the crossfire of controversary, with many deeming it as either exaggerated or fabricated from what really took place. However, that is nothing to take away from how grippingly entertaining it is. Set during the final decade of the Cold War, Affleck takes the lead role of Tony Mendez, a CIA agent who was approached by the agency to rescue six Americans who were hostage in the U.S Embassy in Tehran, Iran in 1979 in the heat of a political uprising before taking refuge at the home of the Canadian Ambassador Ken Taylor (played by Victor Garber). Knowing that they would eventually be found and captured to be taken in public execution if they stayed there any longer, Mendez collaborated with Hollywood producer Lester Siegal (played by Alan Arkin) and make-up artist John Chambers (played by John Goodman) came up with a plan that was far out of the ordinary: pose as a Hollywood producer under a fake name and disguise the hostages as his film crew in search for location to shoot a fake science-fiction movie titled "Argo" in an effort to sneak them through an airport ran by angry-faced, gun-wielding guards. Intertwining the story is his supervisor Jack O'Connell (played by Bryan Cranston) who along with his colleagues keep contact with Mendez during his dangerous mission.
Curious to what the Iranian revolution was about? It was about rebelling against the Pahlavi dynasty under the ruling of Mohammed Reza Shah Pahlavi who was upheld by President Jimmy Carter. Swiping from the pages of the Tony Mendez's memoir 'The Master of Disguise' and Joshuah Bearman's memoir 'The Great Escape', this film, written by Chris Terrio, paints an authentic picture of the real-life events while appropriately masquerading as a tension-fueled race-against-the-clock thriller defies against the typical tropes of an espionage thriller. Ben Affleck shows he has an ambitious eye for detail and a heart for a palpable atmosphere that plays a major role in delivering the emotional touch for each scene taking place within the violent, dirty, socially unrest environment of Iran. He effectively lands the look of a period set in 70s and early 80s, and the intertwining of archive footage of President Jimmy Carter and news footage help set both the political and emotional tone. He also bravely exhibits with talent in front of the camera with a performance that, while proficient, doesn't quite mark one of his most memorable roles. It is his directorial efforts that takes the crown. He proves himself capable of staging each scene with a vivid eye for detail, and his effort pay off especially well for the final thirty minutes when Tony Mendez must lead the hostages through an airport where Iranian guards are watching with bold eyes, locked and loaded. The entire scene, crafted with captivating, you-are-there hand-held cinematography by Rodrigo Prieto, scorches with suspense as the atmosphere boils with arresting fear of what will happen if they get caught. On the other hand, there are moments of levity offered by John Goodman and Alan Arkin in scenes showing their time at the Hollywood studios as well as moments of their collaboration with Ben Affleck with their running gag line "Argo f**k yourself".
Argo is an electrifying, tautly crafted political thriller that bears powerful evidence that Ben Affleck holsters plenty of talent behind the camera as much as in front of the camera, perhaps even more so. The film is entertaining, smart, and rarely bears a dull moment. If the fictional liberties of the event don't bother you, you are in for a gripping, if not remarkable cinematic ride. In conclusion, it stands tall as one of 2012's best motion pictures.