Star rating - 9/10
When it was first released last year, it's fair to say that Argo wasn't given much prominence by most cinemas, and was soon relegated to late night slots. Now after its Best Picture triumph at the Oscars, its DVD release is a good opportunity to see if it lives up to the belated hype. And I'm pleased to report, as I am quite a Ben Affleck fan, despite his brief Jennifer Lopez crazed episode, that it really does.
It is the, before now at least, little known true story of the freeing of six American embassy workers who managed to escape to the safety of the Canadian Ambassador's residence, when so many of their colleagues were taken hostage in the fever of 1979 revolutionary Iran. Ben Affleck both directs the film, and despite no Oscar nod for his specific work, does an excellent job; and also plays the lead good guy. As CIA agent Tony Mendez he comes up with a 'so ludicrous it might just work' plan of pretending to be a Canadian film crew scouting for locations in order to free the six.
The period detail is impressively authentic, and the early 80's soundtrack is pitch perfect. The audacious plan is only made possible by the help of two Hollywood characters. John Goodman and Alan Arkin are simply wonderful as the make-up technician and mogul who help to make the fictitious sci-fi film real enough to convince the Iranian authorities that it exists. They have some of the best lines in the tight script: 'So you want to come to Hollywood and act like a big shot without actually doing anything? You'll fit right in.' and 'If I'm doing a fake movie it's gonna be a fake hit.'
The result is highly amusing in places, but also thrillingly tense when it needs to be, as the plan is put into action despite the odds. It is a credit to Affleck that the suspense and tension is maintained throughout, despite being able to guess that the story turns out for the best for the Americans. Let's face it Hollywood wouldn't have garlanded a film about spectacular American failure, would they? It does pursue a slightly off kilter ending for the last few moments, but Ben Affleck can surely be forgiven for that, as he has created a wonderful film which is highly entertaining despite it's intentional American flag waving. If like me you are wondering what all the fuss is about, I would highly recommend you find out for yourself.