Monday, April 28, 2014

Movie #251: Argo

Argo won Best Picture last year, and stars (and is directed by) Ben Affleck, John Goodman, Alan Arkin, Rory Cochrane, Clea Duvall, Bryan Cranston, Victor Garber, Tate Donovan, and more!

The movie starts off by helpfully providing the context for the shit that Iran finds itself in during the late 70s and early 80s (much of which was helpfully engineered by us and the British, because we're idiots who still haven't learned that you can't get in bed with religious nutbars without some blowback). Followers of the Ayatollah (Khomeini, not Rock-n-Rolla) storm the American Embassy, take a bunch of people hostage, and generally throw down. Six people escape and wind up at the home of the Canadian Ambassador (Garber), but four months later, things are getting tense. The CIA calls in an exfiltration expert named Tony Mendez (Affleck) to get them out.

Thinking way outside the box, he creates cover stories for the six "Houseguests" as a movie crew scouting a location for a B-grade sci-fi flick called Argo, and enlists a makeup artist contact (Goodman) and a producer (Arkin), creates a fake movie company, does a public script-read for the press, and then flies into Tehran with fake passports and trains the Houseguests in their new roles. Shit is getting real, though, as the Iranians are close to figuring out who was in the building and that they're missing six Americans, but in the end, Mendez manages to get these folks out and keep the ruse intact just long enough for their plane to leave.

Naturally, liberties were taken, real people were omitted, and the ending was made more tense than it was in real life for the sake of drama. And that's fine. The movie is really skillfully done, splicing in real footage of the storming of the Embassy and news footage about the crisis (I was about 6 when all this was going on, so I don't remember it at all). Affleck, as always, is a superb director, and a better actor than he's usually given credit for. The script keeps things fairly light, for the subject matter. It's a heavy situation, but everyone involved recognizes that this idea is sort of crazy ("I assure you, sir, this is the best bad idea we have," says Cranston's character).

An observation: When the Iranians are storming the Embassy, I was reminded, more than once, of movies like Day of the Dead. Now, obviously I don't think Argo borrowed from those films as much as those films borrowed from similar footage at the time (Dawn of the Dead was 1978, I think, and we've seen many zombie films since). Deliberate? Or is the scene of "crowd rushing toward you with hostile intent" just that iconic?

Anyway, it's a good movie, and "Argofuckyourself" makes me giggle every time.

My Grade: A
Rewatch value: Medium-low

Next up: High Fidelity