'Argo': A Real Movie About a Fake Movie

Critics gush about Ben Affleck's latest movie, tapping it for an Oscar.

This story jettisons us back to 1979, when hair was long, lapels were wide and Iranian revolutionaries took as hostages 52 Americans from the U.S. Embassy in Teheran. Those who were older than 10 at the time remember the broadcasts of the hostages, who were held for 444 days.

But who remembers that six people from the U.S. Embassy fled to the Canadian Embassy? Or that they escaped from Iran safely?

What happened to those people forms the story portrayed in Ben Affleck’s latest movie, “Argo.” The six people were rescued by a CIA agent (played by Affleck), who decided he could best get them out by pretending they were part of a Canadian film crew making a cheesy science fiction flick in Iran called “Argo.”

The story is true, and the movie sticks to it. Mostly. There’s a little more suspense here than in “The Master of Disguise," the book by Antonio J. Mendez on which the movie is largely based. Besides Affleck, “Argo” stars John Goodman as a makeup artist, Alan Arkin as the producer of “Argo,” Bryan Cranston as Affleck’s CIA boss, and Victor Garber as the Canadian ambassador.

This movie is being hailed as one of the year's best. Here's what the critics are saying:

The propulsive hostage thriller "Argo," the third feature directed by Ben Affleck, just plain works. It's heartening to encounter a film, based on fact but happy to include all sorts of exciting fictions to amp up the suspense, whose entertainment intentions are clear. The execution is clean, sharp and rock-solid. It's as apolitical as a political crisis story set in Iran can get. But "the first rule in any deception operation is to understand who your audience is." Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

As a movie, Argo is a triumph.  It is a riveting bit of recently declassified history that shines a light on a bright spot during a time of darkness.  That the film merely exists as a document of its events can only be held against it so much, perhaps the separation between a great movie and a great film.  But after a momentary backslide with the melodramatically stupid The Town (review), Affleck is back on firm ground as a top-notch director of intelligent adult entertainments. Scott Mendelson, Huffington Post

A movie about the 1979 Iranian hostage crisis probably doesn't sound like it would be a laugh riot — or should be — but that's just one of the many ways in which "Argo" is a glorious, gripping surprise. Directing his third feature, Ben Affleck has come up with a seamless blend of detailed international drama and breathtaking suspense, with just the right amount of dry humor to provide context and levity. He shows a deft handling of tone, especially in making difficult transitions between scenes in Tehran, Washington and Hollywood, but also gives one of his strongest performances yet in front of the camera as the film's star. Christy Lemire, Associated Press

"Argo" is rated R, for violence and bad language, and runs 120 minutes. It's showing at Beechwood Stadium 11 and at Carmike 12.

See also:

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