Friday, October 12, 2012

 

Argo

Argo The foundation for a thriller to be thrilling is that it has to be convincing. Ben Affleck brilliantly builds that foundation in his masterfully crafted third feature "Argo" (USA 2012 | 120 min.). Standing on that solid foundation, he pulls all the strings to maximize intensity and suspense, not forgetting to sprinkle with some jokes on Hollywood's expense. The final production is an awesomely entertaining political thriller. In the end, it makes you want to stand up and sing the national anthem to salute the unsung hero in the film—CIA agent Tony Mendez, played by Ben Affleck.

The film is based on a true story that was declassified by President Clinton in 1997. Aided by storyboards and news footage, the film efficiently elaborates the background about Iranian Revolution in 1979, and explains why the Iranian people are furious about the US government after their ousted dictator Shāh Mohammad Rezā Pahlavī finds a safe haven in the US. It swiftly dives right into the middle of a crisis: the protesters storm into the US Embassy in Tehar, and capture 52 Americans as hostage. However, six Embassy staff members elude the capture and hide out in the Canadian Embassy. If they are found, they may be executed as spies.

CIA agent Tony Mendez (Ben Affleck), an exfiltration expert, is brought in to come up a rescue plan for the six trapped Americans. What Tony comes up is the surreal "best bad idea"—let the six Americans pose as Canadian film crew who are scouting exotic locations for a fake movie called "Argo."

With the help from Tony's real-life makeup artist friend John Chambers (John Goodman) and a fictional legendary Hollywood producer Lester Siegel (Alan Arkin), project Argo is carried on.

Ben Affleck in ARGO, a presentation of Warner Bros.

As a director, Ben Affleck perfectly controls his storytelling and keeps the audience engaged as well as thrilled. He never lets the urgency of the crisis get weaken. Meanwhile, he seamlessly blends in hilarious not-so-inside jokes about Hollywood to create plenty delightful humorous punch lines, impeccably delivered by John Goodman and Alan Arkin. When Tony Mendez comes to John Chambers for his fake movie idea, John replies: "So you want to come to Hollywood, act like a big shot without actually doing anything? You'll fit right in."

In the wake of recent US Consulate attack in Benghazi, Libya that killed US Ambassador to Libya J. Christopher Stevens, the film's life and death atmosphere can be felt with even more intensity. The performance by a fine ensemble cast terrifically recounts the terrifying moments 33 years ago.

This is certainly one of the most entertaining films this year, and certainly Ben Affleck's best work to date as a director.

"Argo," a Warner Bros. Pictures release, opens on Friday, October 12, 2012 at Bay Area theaters.

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