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Judy Thorburn's Movie Reviews

Argo | Ben Affleck, Victor Garber, John Goodman, Alan Arkin, Bryan Cranston, Clea Duval, Tate Donovan | Review

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Argo

With 'Gone Baby Gone' and 'The Town' having garnered rightfully deserved rave reviews, and now the excellent 'Argo' under his belt as his best work yet behind the camera, actor/director Ben Affleck continues to make his mark as one of Hollywood's finest directors. Once again he delivers a genuine piece of intelligent, solid entertainment.

Affleck skillfully directed and stars in this suspenseful, white knuckle political thriller written by Chris Terrio based on actual events that took place in 1979 when Iranian militants stormed the American embassy in Tehran and took 52 hostages, whom were held captive for 444 days. While the hostage situation made headlines all over the world, the public had no clue about the six Americans who managed to escape, finding refuge in the home of the Canadian Ambassador, Ken Taylor (Victor Garber).  In fact, the top secret rescue mission remained classified for 17 years until 1997.

Knowing that the six would be discovered as missing and eventually found, tortured and killed, the CIA enlist their top “extractor” or “exfiltration” specialist, Tony Mendez (Affleck) who comes up with “the best, bad idea”, which is to rescue the six by assuming fake identities as Canadian filmmakers scouting locations for a sci fi film, a Star Wars ripoff titled 'Argo', and then get them out of the country by boarding a regularly scheduled flight from Tehran.

John Goodman and Adam Arkin bring some humor to their roles as Hollywood bigwigs, real life makeup artist John Chambers and award winning film producer Lester Siegel (a fictitious character) who are recruited to help create the highest level of authenticity and credibility to the mission. Siegel agrees to come on board and promote the fake film, but only, he says, “if it is a fake hit”. And so, the typical Hollywood machinations are set into motion with the creation of posters, storyboards, and press conferences to insure that Argo comes across as a real movie in the making, when Mendez gets to Iran.

Of course,  the rescue plan doesn't go off without several hitches and close calls that threaten the safety of both Mendez and his group of terrified Americans who are anxious to make it out of the country alive.

We all know the outcome, yet Affleck keeps the tension and suspense at a steady, solid pace that has you on the edge of your seat. Well utilized are archival TV clips of  Tom Brokaw, Ted Koppel, Walter Cronkite and Diane Sawyer reporting on the volatile Middle East situation.

Lending support to this incredible, true to life story are Bryan Cranston as Mendez's CIA boss, Clea Duval and Tate Donovan among the group of desperate Americans.  Each and every actor are well cast and excellently portrayed.

Considering the recent attack on the U.S. Embassy in Libya in which our Ambassador and several other Americans were brutally murdered, 'Argo' could not be more timely and relevant.

It's kind of ironic that although the mission involved the making of a terrible fake movie called 'Argo', this actual film is by far one of the best of the year, and definitely an Oscar contender.  Affleck's mission was to make a well crafted, gripping film. He did just that. On every level, his mission was accomplished.

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