Reminiscent of the intelligent and intense politically-tinged thrillers from the 1970’s, ‘Argo’ is a stunning achievement that represents another giant leap in the directorial prowess of Ben Affleck.
The story itself is a jaw-dropper, and all true: in 1979, a CIA operative concocted a plan to rescue six American hostages in Iran by spearheading a location shoot for a fake science fiction film production. Affleck masterfully balances the obvious comedic elements behind this fantastical plan with the very real perils that result from its implementation. The stakes couldn’t be higher or – with the recent US embassy attack in Lebanon – more prescient.
The craft of the film is impeccable from Rodriego Prieto’s agitated cinematography to Alexandre Desplat’s pulsating score to the breathtakingly authentic period details in setting and costume.
If the film has a flaw, it may lie in Affleck’s central performance, whose stoicism lacks a certain eloquence at times. It’s the age-old dilemma for actors who portray real-life figures. As Affleck admits, operative Tony Mendez (whom he got to know well over the course of the film’s production) is a tough, non-demonstrative personality, as befits one of our most celebrated CIA figures. But how far do you carry the reality of the man before it diminishes an element of drama from your film? Similar complaints have greeted Daniel Day-Lewis’ authentically high-pitched voice in Spielberg’s upcoming biopic of Abraham Lincoln.
Regardless, ‘Argo’ is one of the year’s greatest accomplishments, and a certain shoo-in for many nominations come Oscar time.