Ten years ago when his Paycheck bombed, it seemed like another big star had crashed at burned in Hollywood. Ben Affleck reinvented himself with his directorial debut Gone Baby Gone, proved the first wasn’t a fluke with the stunning The Town, and with Argo, he effortlessly places himself in the pantheon of the best filmmakers.
Based on a true story, Argo introduces us to real life CIA honcho Tony Mendez (Affleck) who was slapped with a mission to rescue six Americans from their captors during the 1979 Iran hostage crisis. It wasn’t a cakewalk, and Mendez and his team were briefed to pose as Canadian movie producers of a science fiction movie titled ‘Argo’, and fly out the hostages as his crew members. It was, as they say, ‘the best bad plan we've got’. Not surprisingly, we get the best damn movie Hollywood’s got.
Despite the heavy duty espionage thrills, Affleck doesn’t shy away from Hollywood satire. One character asks ‘Can you teach someone to be a director in a day?’, to which another replies ‘You could teach a rhesus monkey to be a director in a day’. How much of the film resembles the real incident is moot but the plan involves hiring a real producer, a fake script and even actors. Tabloids even carry reports of a Star Wars clone being made. Despite knowing fully well how the film ends, one can’t help but be thrilled by the cast in Argo. Not only does writer Chris Terrio churn out some of the best and wittiest dialogue of the year, but Affleck exacts the best performances of the year from Bryan Cranston, Alan Arkin, John Goodman and even himself. Affleck tightens the plot to unbearable levels, and the final fifteen minutes that lead to events at an airport are nerve-wracking as hell. The America-Middle East nexus and hypocrisy is not so subtly realized, however there is just too much fun to be had in the film to go over its shortcomings.
Argo is a saucy, taut and gripping watch, and is probably the funniest political satire since In The Loop. Watch it, read about the real incident and watch it again.
(First published in MiD Day)