With Oscar season just over, we were both keen to see a bearded Ben Affleck in Argo, the film that won best film at this years Oscars. It got a re-release at the cinema over here in the UK as a result of it’s Oscar success, bringing the film to a wider audience. By no mere coincidence either, it’s now available to buy for a paltry sum of earnings too.
Based on real events, Ben Affleck directs and stars in what is simultaneously a great tense drama involving the Iranian Islamic revolution, American hostages and the CIA and also an incredible homage to the spectacles and facial hair excess of the early 1980’s. It’s like the 1970’s never really went away.
In 1979, when the American supported Shah was over-thrown and the exiled Ayatollah Khomeini returned to power, as the revolutionaries broke into the American Embassy, 6 members of staff made a break for it and ended up hiding out in the Canadian Embassy. Afraid they’d be executed as spies, the Americans turned to the CIA for a plan so cunning you could brush your teeth with it to get them out.
Ben Affleck’s full beard is the real star of the show but Ben Affleck himself comes a close second. His performance is brilliant, really nuanced, capturing the absurdity of what must go down with the plot to kill Castro with exploding cigars (it failed) as one of the CIA’s more crackpot plans. Yes, the CIA ran the cover of a Middle Eastern sci-fi film as a scam to get the embassy members out of Iran.
The film that unravels is incredibly tense and seems to last about 20 minutes rather than the actual two hours, a testimony to the quality on offer. Sometimes worthy films rather than good films win the Oscars but in this instance the Academy were completely spot on. Argo is utterly compelling and utterly unmissable.
Of course a few liberties were taken in making the dramatic story a dramatic film- the Brits did take the American’s in but passed them on due to fears for their safety, the check and chase at the end of the film didn’t happen, the caper went off without a hitch and the Canadians had a little more active involvement than just babysitting but regardless, it’s worth forgiving the film these inaccurate foibles.