Film review: Argo

GRAEME TUCKETT
Last updated 05:00 27/10/2012
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QUALITY DRAMA: Ben Affleck stars and directs Argo – a clever and engrossing film set in Iran during the hostage crisis.

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Argo (M)(120 min)

Directed by Ben Affleck, starring Ben Affleck, Bryan Cranston, Alan Arkin, John Goodman.

I do like this time of year. It's when the American studios start torelease the films that might have a chance at some silverware come awards season. The later in the year, the fresher the films will be inthe minds of the judges. And late October is about when the first of them appear. Which means that someone, somewhere, thinks that Argo isa quality drama, very competently directed, and excellently performed.

And they'd be right.

Argo is set in the immediate aftermath of the Iranian revolution. The world remembers the hostages who were held in the American embassy for 444 days. But less remembered is the story of the six who escaped as the building was being stormed, and who then hid in the Canadian embassy awaiting rescue. The rescue attempt, when it came, was something no script writer would dare invent.

The CIA, working with a Hollywood producer and an award winning make-up artist, put together a plausible sounding film production - a big budget sci-fi movie called Argo - and flew an agent into Iran to pose as the producer of the film. He would then arm the six fugitives with Canadian passports, fake exit visas, cover stories as film-makers, and walk them straight past Iranian customs, and on to freedom.

Hollywood loves a decent real life thriller, and it loves a film about film-making (How else to explain The Artist winning Best Picture?), and Argo succeeds as both. Ben Affleck, only three films into his directing career, is getting stronger and more confident with every spin in the chair.

Argo represents solid and unfussy film-making, but as the action moves back and forth from a Hollywood production office- beautifully manned by Alan Arkin and John Goodman - to the confines of an embassy under siege, so the film must shift in tone and emotional palette accordingly.

Affleck, and his writers, are up to it. I've been told that the historical truth of the events is quite different, and that the bravery of the Canadian staff is downplayed inthe film, and I can well believe it. But, that irritation aside, Argo is a clever and engrossing film, with some genuine edge-of-the-seat tension about it.

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