4.5/5 MUST must see SEE
dir Ben Affleck
scr Chris Terrio
prd Ben Affleck, George Clooney, Grant Heslov
with Ben Affleck, Bryan Cranston, Alan Arkin, John Goodman, Victor Garber, Chris Messina, Tate Donovan, Scoot McNairy, Clea DuVall, Kerry Bishe, Christopher Denham, Rory Cochrane
release US 12.Oct.12, UK 7.Nov.12
12/US Warner 2h00
Let's make a deal: Goodman, Arkin and Affleck

cranston messina duvall
london film fest
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
Argo Based on an unbelievable true story, this entertaining thriller uses declassified documents to recount a news story from an angle never heard before. Both funny and thrillingly nerve-wracking, it also cements Affleck's status as an A-list director.

At the height of the Iranian revolution in 1979, protestors stormed the US Embassy and took 52 Americans hostage in retaliation for letting the deposed Shah take refuge in New York. But six staff members snuck out and hid in Canada's embassy. Four months later, the CIA chief (Cranston) decides to get them out, and Agent Mendez (Affleck) comes up with a crazy plan: inventing a fake sci-fi movie called Argo with a veteran producer (Arkin) and an Oscar-winning make-up artist (Goodman), so the six escapees can pose as Mendez's Canadian location-scouting crew.

Watching Mendez and his Hollywood cohorts create the back-story is hilarious, complete with a script read-through in full costume (cue a fabulous cameo from 1970s icon Adrienne Barbeau as Serksi the Galactic Witch). Argo is exactly the kind of cheesy Star Wars rip-offs that were in production at the time, and as a director Affleck makes this film look and feel like it comes from the period as well including climactic cross-cutting and tension-building camera angles that wring every ounce of suspense out of an already nail-biting story.

This level of detail (even the film stock has a 70s grain) spikes the story with real urgency that echoes in news headlines today. Amid the lively set-pieces, the cast members find textures that make the characters identifiably real. Affleck adds a terrific sense of weariness beneath Tony's inventive bravado. Arkin, Goodman and Cranston pepper each scene with witty one-liners that add black comedy to the life-or-death gravitas of the situation. And a few of the escapees stand out as well, most notably McNairy's sceptic.

Since what happened was top secret, the film has a serious kick of unpredictability. From scene to scene, we're never sure which way things are going to twist and turn. Like the global situation today, tension grows exponentially in the blink of an eye, as minor variables can make or break the whole operation. Not only is this a great story, but Affleck turns it into a gripping, finely crafted thriller that's also a lot of fun.

cert 15 themes, language, violence 10.Oct.12

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© 2012 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall