Argo (2012) Review

Argo (2012) Director: Ben Affleck



A unique and amusing espionage thriller, Argo is based on the true story of Tony Mendez, a CIA operative during the 1980s who executed an extraordinary operative rescue mission in Iran. He led a covert undercover CIA operation infiltrating Iran during the hostage crisis in the late 1980s, posing as a film-maker for a science fiction movie called “Argo” which they claim to be shooting in Tehran. Tony Mendez sneaks into Tehran and delivers fake Canadian passports to Americans hiding out at a safe house. In addition to Ben Affleck, Bryan Cranston, and John Goodman also appear in the film.

It is a tense, edge-of-your-seat thriller, particularly at the end in which the whole project is cancelled by the CIA but Mendez pushes forward anyway and the group of Americans very nearly is not able to escape Iran. The full credit for their escape is officially given to the Canadian government in order to protect the covert nature of the operation. Mendez receives an award but must instantly return it in order to protect his own secrecy until the operation is finally declassified in 1997. Argo rather surprisingly won Best Picture in 2012.

Notably, the news organization VICE uncovered through a Freedom of Information Act request that the CIA was involved in the development of the film, as it was with other notable films of the epoch, including Zero Dark Thirty. The film had several producers, including George Clooney.

Argo re-enforces a certain degree of trust and respect for the deep state bureaucracy, which has so often been the target, however justified or not, of public outcry. The beauty of the film lies in its classic build-up of tension, using a simple rescue story, without the deployment of huge explosions and large-scale special effects. There are certain minor historical inaccuracies in the film, such as the apparent lack of danger to the group at their moment of escape, and predictably the ever-disgruntled academics have criticized the film for portraying ethnic stereotypes, but leaving all this aside Argo is a top-notch film, a well-told modern adventure story.

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