Inspired by real life events, Argo is the story of an extraordinary joint Canadian-CIA mission that took place in Iran during the 1979 revolution. Despite the embroidered dramatisation of this remarkable covert operation, Argo is a surprisingly dull retelling of a fascinating piece of world history.
Written by Chris Terrio, Argo is based on Joshuah Bearman’s 2007 article ‘Escape from Tehran’ , which is the account of a secret US operation to retrieve six diplomats from the volatile Middle Eastern country.
Director Ben Affleck (The Town, Gone Baby Gone) also plays the lead role of experienced CIA exfiltration agent Tony Mendez. The world weary Mendez is given the unenviable task of getting the civil servants out of the country under the noses of the Iranian authorities.
Mendez contacts Academy Award winning Planet of the Apes make-up artist John Chambers (John Goodman) and with the help of producer Lester Siegel (Alan Arkin), the men plan to create a fake Canadian sci-fi movie as a cover story.
Only Arkin’s (Get Smart, Little Miss Sunshine) and Goodman’s (The Artist, The Big Lebowski) performances offer some respite from the staid predictability of the film. Even the surplus of North American acting talent on show couldn’t help Argo’s poor script, one dimensional characters and frustrating direction, highlighted by Affleck’s tediously flat portrayal of Mendez, which gave little insight to the life of a man who regularly put his life on the line for his country.
The heavily embellished movie was curiously caught between the need to show historically accurate scenes, by creating facsimiles of period news footage, and the lack of any real acknowledgement of America’s involvement in the revolution, resulting in an unsatisfactory and tension free docudrama.
In fact, at times Argo was nothing but an propaganda piece, extolling the qualities of the US intelligence services and the bravery of its citizens, with little sympathy for the Iranian people and what would have been the original Arab spring.
Unfortunately the script’s linear recount of the daring and creative rescue was clichéd, flat and uninspired and Affleck’s direction can only be described as curious. In spite of the rich source material, an opportunity to make a great escape movie has been lost and the chance to critique US foreign policy ignored.
On general release