Argo Review
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Ben Affleck knows Boston. He’s proven it time and time again—first with his Oscar-winning screenplay for Good Will Hunting, then with his first two directorial efforts, Gone Baby Gone and The Town. But if you (like so many others) were starting to wonder whether he could actually make a movie about something other than gritty guys from Southie, Argo should provide a pretty clear-cut answer—because this taut historical thriller isn’t just a good movie; it’s Affleck’s best yet.

In November of 1979, after months of unrest, a group of Iranians stormed the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, demanding that the U.S. return the nation’s deposed Shah and allow him to stand trial for his crimes. In the midst of the chaos, six Americans managed to escape unnoticed, eventually finding refuge at the home of Canadian Ambassador Ken Taylor (Victor Garber).

As the hostage situation at the Embassy drags on, the CIA calls in technical operations officer Tony Mendez (Affleck) to help plan an extraction. After discussing the options, the only cover story that seems even remotely plausible involves posing as a Canadian film crew on a location-scouting trip. But, in order to make this risky operation work, they’ll need some help from Hollywood.

Argo may tell a true story about a very serious time in our nation’s history, but this stranger-than-fiction real-life account makes for one seriously entertaining caper. From the chaos of the opening scenes to the comedy of Tony’s adventures in Hollywood, Affleck gets the tone just right. It’s a rollercoaster of a story, filled with highs and lows, successes and failures, feats and fumbles. And even though audiences will most likely know the outcome before the movie even begins, there’s never a dull moment. Instead, the suspense is often so riveting that you may find yourself holding your breath, completely absorbed in the action.

Meanwhile, though you might expect a film about a hostage situation to be almost oppressively dramatic, Argo is perfectly balanced, mixing the somber reality of the situation with the sheer absurdity of the CIA’s outlandish plan to bring these six Americans back home. While there are plenty of powerful images that will burn themselves into your memory, there are also plenty of light moments that will make you laugh out loud. Alan Arkin and John Goodman give the film some much-needed levity as the Hollywood hotshots who help Tony create his bizarre cover story, while Bryan Cranston’s Jack O’Donnell brings humor to the political side as he helps Tony fight his way through the bureaucracy and red tape. Still, the comedy never goes so far that it makes a mockery of the situation. Instead, it constantly reminds viewers that lives are at risk here—that all of this insanity is simply the unlikely means to a significant end.

While most award hopefuls strive to garner critical acclaim through serious, heavy drama, Affleck’s Argo offers a refreshing twist on the usual award season intensity, telling a serious story in a wildly entertaining way. And that’s sure to make the director’s first expedition outside Beantown a hit for both critics and audiences.

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