Film review: Argo

Ben Affleck directs and stars in Argo, an action thriller based on the declassified true story of a CIA rescue mission. Photo: Warner Bros. Ben Affleck directs and stars in Argo, an action thriller based on the declassified true story of a CIA rescue mission. Photo: Warner Bros.

The most noticeable thing about Argo —and this can’t entirely be the point —is that Ben Affleck, as a director, continues to grow into a confident helmsman. He trusts his actors (there’s not a weak supporting performance in the bunch), trusts the story, and doesn’t rush anything.

Therein lies Argo’s problem. This story, about six Americans who escape from the U.S. embassy in Tehran in November 1979 when it’s stormed by militants, should be tenser than it is. Rushing things to build tension probably isn’t the solution, but Argo unfolds so nonchalantly that whatever tension mounts, dissipates as it’s building. Seriously: Is Ben Affleck NOT going to save six Americans hiding out at the Canadian ambassador’s house?

Don’t get the wrong idea. Argo is good. It’s just not great. The story, which is based on a real event, goes like this: On November 4, 1979, militants in Tehran, angry that the United States was protecting the deposed Shah after he fled from power, entered the American embassy and took hostages. Four hundred forty-four days later, the hostages were released. Miraculously, six Americans who worked in the embassy, four men and two women, escaped on November 4. They were given refuge in the Canadian ambassador’s home and a plot was hatched to get them out.

Enter Affleck as the man with the plan. After he tells the State Department its ideas to get the hostages out—one of which involves having all six of them ride bikes to the Turkish border—are no good, he struggles to come up with his own. While watching one of the many Planet of the Apes movies on TV, he hits on something: We’re Canadians. We’re scouting a sci-fi epic and we want to film in Iran. I go in, meet them, we all walk out. Simple, right?

It’s a crackerjack idea. Unfortunately, Affleck doesn’t use any of the awesome paranoia that exists in 1970s thrillers, such as The Parallax View or even All The President’s Men, in his own movie. He gets the look right; this is what the ’70s looked like (try not to laugh). But he plays his stoic stock character, which brings to mind the “sad Keanu” meme from a few years ago, more than it does a veteran CIA agent trying to get six Americans out of a hostile country before they’re all killed. Luckily, he’s aided by a game cast, including Bryan Cranston as his boss, Kerry Bishé as one of the Americans (appearing, for once, outside an Ed Burns movie), and the under used Clea DuVall, also as one of the hidden. Plus, Alan Arkin and John Goodman provide comic relief as the men helping him make a fake movie look real.

One thing Affleck gets right: There will be a scene that moves the story forward, followed by a scene that heightens the drama. For example, one gunshot amid silence goes a long way in building tension. He lets those moments fade, though, and the ending is never in doubt, even though perhaps it should be.

Have your say. Drop a line to mail, send a letter to 308 E. Main St., or post a comment.

Argo/R, 120 minutes/Regal Downtown Mall 6

Playing this week

Vinegar Hill Theatre

Regal Downtown Mall 6

Atlas Shrugged: Part 2
Regal Downtown Mall 6

End of Watch
Regal Seminole Square 4

Regal Seminole Square 4

Here Comes The Boom
Carmike Cinema 6

Hotel Transylvania
Carmike Cinema 6

House at the End of
the Street
Regal Seminole Square 4

Regal Downtown Mall 6

The Master
Regal Downtown Mall 6

The Perks Of Being A Wallflower
Carmike Cinema 6

Pitch Perfect
Carmike Cinema 6

Seven Psychopaths
Regal Downtown Mall 6

Regal Downtown Mall 6

Taken 2
Regal Seminole Square 4

Trouble With the Curve
Carmike Cinema 6


Posted In:     Arts

Previous Post

ARTS Pick: Stuart Davis

Next Post

ARTS Pick: Easy Star All-Stars

Our comments system is designed to foster a lively debate of ideas, offer a forum for the exchange of ad hoc information, and solicit honest, respectful feedback about the work we do. We’re glad you’re participating. Here are a few simple rules to follow, which should be relatively straightforward.

1) Don’t call people names or accuse them of things you cannot support.
2) Don’t direct foul language, racial slurs, or offensive terms at other commenters or our staff.
3) Don’t use the discussion on our site for commercial (or shameless personal) promotion.

We reserve the right to remove posts and ban commenters who violate any of the rules listed above, or the spirit of the discussion. We’re trying to create a safe space for a wide range of people to express themselves, and we believe that goal can only be achieved through thoughtful, sensitive editorial control.

If you have questions or comments about our policies or about a specific post, please send an e-mail to

Leave a Reply

Notify of