Argo is a solid piece of entertainment
Directed by Ben Affleck. Starring Ben Affleck and Alan Arkin. Rated PG. Now playing
A solid piece of entertainment as well as a timely and exciting encapsulation of real-life historical intrigue, Argo shows actor-director Ben Affleck in impressive form almost all the way across the board.
A bearded Affleck plays Tony Mendez, a CIA “exfiltration” specialist known as Kevin Harkness to the six Americans who, that cold day in 1979, when Iranians stormed the U.S. embassy, managed to walk out the back door and take cover in the residence of Canadian ambassador Ken Taylor (Victor Garber).
To do this, Mendez/Harkness decides to hit Hollywood, to beef up a scenario in which some Canucks might plausibly be scouting locations for a Mideast-set Star Wars rip-off called Argo. In his Jason-like quest, he enlists a prosthetics specialist (John Goodman) and a beyond-cynical Hollywood producer (the hilarious Alan Arkin), who signs on to the classified project with the proviso that he’ll only fake the project if “it’s going to be a fake hit.”
Affleck enjoys kidding his work community, but has no less fun showing the spook world choking on its own testosterone. This keeps boiling over when dealing with his perpetually apoplectic boss (a nonbald Bryan Cranston) and with crusty secretary of state Cyrus Vance (Bob Gunton), who asks Mendez, “Is this the best bad idea you’ve got?”
Typical of the movie as a whole, those zippy lines come courtesy of screenwriter Chris Terrio, who was not quite three years old when these incidents happened, but well captures the tense zeitgeist. Affleck’s production supports the Carter-era vibe, right down to smart period music and appropriately hideous typography, to match the moustaches.
Back then, Canada got the credit for the bizarre operation, declassified by Bill Clinton in 1997, but by any yardstick, the film goes too far in clawing back the accolades, reducing Taylor’s role to that of passive host. At least it doesn’t suggest that everything worked out okay in Iran.
Watch the trailer for Argo.