Actor/director Ben Affleck's Hollywood transformation is complete. His latest directorial effort Argo is a dramatization of the "Canadian Caper", an international crisis in the midst the Iran hostage crisis, after the 1979 Iranian revolution. The film proves to be a winning mixture of adult drama and intense political conflict.
The cast is filled with some of the best character actors working as key players involved in the covert American-Canadian rescue mission. John Goodman and Alan Arkin take the mostly tense thriller into a satirical detour of Hollywood filmmaking as producers brought on to make the covert mission's cover story look legitimate. Chris Messina and Bryan Cranston turn up for solid, straight fire performances as CIA desk jockeys quarterbacking Affleck's Tony Mendez, the real life extraction expert tasked with saving six Americans trapped in Tehran.
There's a dose of Canadian content as the film makes itself an international example of successful operations between cooperating governments. The storytelling elements of the film include archival news footage spliced with expositional narration over graphics all mixed into conventional acting admirably. Argo is expertly structured and edited with a stark late 1970s/early 1980s look and feel. Everything is put into a proper context within the tight pacing of the film's narrative.
Affleck uses his controlled directorial hand, managing to inject humour and fun while balancing incredible drama and suspense. My only complaint was Scoot McNairy's bordering on annoying performance as one of the trapped Americans. He understandably plays his character tinged with immense stress and pressure. However, this annoyance is paid off in spades with a very memorable scene expressly redeeming his character, executed flawlessly.
Argo's production value in superb in setting up the stakes and creating a forgotten political atmosphere. The beginning set up recreating the attack on the U.S. embassy in Tehran is thrilling and terrifying. The editing and conception creates a constant state of fear while managing effective displays of human emotion and humour on screen during high tension.
Affleck shows his measured, controlled direction, adeptness with strong material, and ability to manage actors. The film takes you back with a smart, engaging story executed slyly and superbly. However, keep in mind, the events are heavily dramatized with liberties taken for storytelling purposes. Still, Argo is a winner of a film in every sense.
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