Oct 29, 2012
Movie Review: Argo (2012)
the memoirs of real-life CIA exfiltration specialist Tony Mendez and a WIRED Magazine article about the recently declassified mission, Argo tells the story of a real CIA rescue mission that has all the hallmarks of a Jim Phelps operation from the Mission: Impossible TVshow. It’s impossible not to think of that show, in fact (which is among the highest compliments I can pay to a modern spy movie), watching the events of Argo unfold. When Mendez (played by Affleck) suggests disguising American hostages (or would-be hostages) as a Canadian film crew scouting locations for a Star Wars-inspired sci-fi movie to extract them from hostile Iran, it sounds just like the zany capers Phelps would dream up on the show. And, just like Phelps in the early days, Mendez goes on to select a team of non-spy professionals in their given Hollywood fields to pull it off. Just like Phelps in the later days, he and everyone else wear gaudy Seventies fashions while doing it! (Mendez’s boss even gives him a version of the standard “disavowed” warning from Mission: Impossible, instructing him that should he be captured, the Agency “won’t claim” him.)
a composite of several unnamed people. As Mendez pretends to be bigshot in Hollywood (“you’ll fit right in,” Chambers assures him), Siegel takes out trade ads and drums up publicity for their fake sci-fi epic, Argo, by hosting a staged reading of the script, complete with actors in cheesy sci-fi costumes.
and Scott McNairy.) Especially following a harrowing trip into the heart of the city to sell the cover (they’re accompanied by a representative from the Ministry of Culture, but still subjected to a torrent of anti-American demonstrations even as they pretend to be Canadian), some of them are none too eager to accept Mendez’s out-there plan. But there’s a ticking clock. They won’t be able to stay in the ambassador’s house much longer… and then what? If they're discovered, the fear is they'll be publicly executed. Even though audiences likely know the outcome going in, Affleck still manages to generate some blistering suspense during the film’s final act. (Though he and writer Chris Terrio resort to creative license to heighten what actually happened.)
Scorpio, 3 Days of the Condor, All the President's Men and Peckinpah’s The Killer Elite. Best of all (and setting the appropriate tone from the film’s opening moments), there’s even a period-appropriate retro Warner Bros. logo! (If only GK Films had followed suit and created a fake one from that time even though they didn’t exist then; when their logo comes up after the WB one, it sort of kills the effect.)
Starcrash being my favorite) will thrill to the loving Hollywood details, and likely wish that the film had actually been made. (They’re also likely to enjoy the final shot of the movie, which serves as a heartfelt tribute to those films and their fans.) Fortunately, even if it wasn’t made, Argo served a higher purpose well chronicled here, and the implausible-but-true story of its non-making, now also called Argo, is an instant classic of multiple genres.