In late 1979 and early 1980, the CIA and the Canadian government rescued six American diplomats during the Iran hostage crisis. The diplomats were smuggled out of Iran using Canadian passports sent from Ottawa and CIA agent Tony Mendez providing assistance. The hostages then posed as a Hollywood crew filming on location for a sci-fi movie entitled “Argo.” This fake movie was promoted using posters in Hollywood newspapers, some concept artwork by comic book artist Jack Kirby and movie makeup artist John Chambers providing makeup.
One of the most effective parts of this film is the performance of the main actors. Director Ben Affleck puts a lot of depth and emotion into his role as Mendez. Affleck portrays him as a man who was really feeling vulnerable and nervous about the outcome of this rescue mission. John Goodman as John Chambers is among the other highlights of this outstanding cast, which also includes Alan Arkin as movie producer Lester Siegel, Bryan Cranston as CIA supervisor Jack O’Donnell and Victor Garber as Canadian ambassador Ken Taylor. The actors portraying the American diplomat hostages are another highlight of the cast, because the physical resemblance between the actors and the victims is remarkably visible.
The screenplay, by Chris Terrio, is based on a Wired magazine article published in 2007 about the Canadian Caper. With this, Terrio spends a lot of attention on Mendez’s perspective on the Canadian Caper (he was also a consultant on this film). The film really puts you in the perspective of the six hostages and remains suspenseful without being too chaotic in its action set pieces. Another interesting aspect about “Argo” is William Goldenberg’s brilliant cutting back and forth between the perspectives of the diplomats, Mendez and the CIA working with the movie crew to plan the rescue mission and actual 1980 news footage of the tension in Iran. Production designer Sharon Seymour really captures the nuance of the late ‘70’s and early 80’s with the bright, intense colors and cinematographer Rodrigo Prieto responds with the grainy and choppy lighting in that era, particularly in the studios in Burbank where Lester Siegel resides. Overall, “Argo” is definitely a film worth seeing and is a likely candidate for the major film awards in the upcoming months.
(Originally written and published on October 26, 2012)