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Saturday, 15 February 2014

A REVIEW: ARGO

By: Pratikshya Satpathy


Movie Title: ARGO
Starring: Ben Affleck, Bryan Cranston, Alan Arkin, John Goodman
Directed By: Ben Affleck
Release Date: October 4, 2012 (USA)

Ben Afleck's new movie as a director is an amazing real-life caper straight out of Ripley’s Believe It Or Not It tells the true story of some imaginative derring-do on the part of a brilliant and unorthodox CIA agent called Tony Mendez. This is a watchable, enjoyable film, with some hilarious and nail-biting moments, but it sets its face disconcertingly against satire and mischief with a final lurch into schmaltzy, liberal-patriot piety. It is as if Aaron Sorkin, in his most solemn mood, had suddenly taken over screenwriting duties for the final 10 min


The movie is, in effect, based on Mendez's own testimony; as with all spies' tales, we're entitled to our pinch of salt, but his story is just so incredible it compels belief: a startling piece of declassified secret history about a CIA-sponsored bogus film. The moral might be that there's no business like show business – and you can pretty much rely on everyone uncritically kowtowing to its glamour and prestige.

Mendez is shown persuading his superiors to bankroll a crazy, but inspired scheme: he will fly into Iran with seven fake Canadian passports – one for him and one each for his six compatriots – claiming to be a Canadian movie producer, scouting locations for a new sci-fi thriller called ARGO. The plan is that these terrified prisoners will then wander brazenly around with him and some Iranian culture ministry officials, posing as producers and cinematographers, pretending to size up the scenery through letter boxed fingers etc, and then they all go home together on a Swissair flight. Mendez makes it look realer than real by getting all the right documentation and hiring real backers – Hollywood makeup technician John Chambers (John Goodman) and veteran mogul Lester Siegel (Alan Arkin) – and they stage a real reading of a complete, preposterous script in an LA hotel, duly reported on by Variety. In short, they're doing everything that real producers would do, making a real movie.

Argo is partly based on a wired magazine article The Great Escape, and that film is a potent influence.

Part of what makes this head spinning story believable is the fact that it pans out in an oddly uncomplicated way. If it were fiction, there would be more tense encounters with English-speaking Iranian officials, and they would be more suspicious and knowledgeable.

This film is an entertaining, belated footnote to a larger story about a more pervasive and far-reaching "Argo" effect. If Encounter magazine ever carried film news, it might well have taken a supportive interest in this sci-fi adventure: this journal was famously found to be backed and, in effect, created by the CIA showed how the agency was fighting the good fight against communism through the arts generally.

Well, the emphasis turns out to be rather different, leading to what I felt was a tonal oddity, a typically bizarre adventure that finally has to be rescued from irony and subversion and treated with uplifting solemnity, as if to repudiate any sense that what we have been watching is a comedy. But a comedy is basically what it is, and a good one.

1 comment:

  1. Deserved to win Best Picture.. Nail bitting edge of the seat momnts wiill your day..:)

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