Movie Review: Argo

Mike Finkelstein has always known that truth is stranger than fiction…how else could he explain his life so far? But that belief was just proven yet again when he went to the movies one day, and saw just how far one CIA operation went to get back their men. Here is his review of “Argo”.

Mike Finkelstein has always known that truth is stranger than fiction…how else could he explain his life so far?  But that belief was just proven yet again when he went to the movies one day, and saw just how far one CIA operation went to get back their men.  Here is his review of “Argo”.

PLOT: During the 1979 Iranian Revolution, the American Embassy is overrun and 52 Americans are taken hostage.  Six US diplomats, however, manage to escape and make their way to the home of the Canadian Ambassador.  But when the Ambassador and the US Government start to realize that time is quickly running out until the group is found and the Ambassador is punished, it’s up to CIA ex-filtration specialist Tony Mendez (Ben Affleck) to get everyone out alive.  His plan—the “best bad idea” in United States history—enter Iran as a Canadian film producer, and leave the country with the six diplomats as his crew.

Check out the trailer:

MIKE’S REVIEW: Imagine, if you will, a scenario where the CIA would send an undercover agent to rescue hostages.  The agent would pretend to be a Canadian film producer, the hostages would be his crew, and together, they would sneak out of the country without anyone being the wiser.  It almost sounds too ridiculous to be true, yet, somehow it is.  And thanks to one of the most talented directors in Hollywood today, we have ARGO, a film that does justice to that captivating true story, and proves yet again that truth is always stranger than fiction.

If you were to go back about a decade and said the name “Ben Affleck”, you probably wouldn’t have heard anything more than a few chuckles and scoffs.  (GIGLI and JERSEY GIRL, anyone?) Flash forward to today, and it is safe to say that the man is a force to be reckoned with.  With his exquisite attention to detail and respect to history, Affleck has created a tour de force of a film with ARGO, and has given us a number of scenes that felt all too real…something that hit home when we later see that many moments were recreations of photographs taken during the revolution.

Every moment that we spend in Iran, whether it be the first ten minutes or the last hour, is a moment where your body is locked with tension. As the embassy gates are breached, we are sitting ducks with the Embassy workers.  We see them next to us being blindfolded and taken.  When we sit with the six diplomats in the Canadian Ambassador’s home, everything is on the line, and with a superb cast of character actors that include Tate Donovan, Christopher Denham, Clea Duvall, Rory Cochrane, Kerry Bishe and Scoot McNairy playing our diplomats, we are reminded of their fear every second by way of simple facial expressions and private break downs.  We are with these six.  We are in their shoes.  And oh yes, we are feeling their nerves.

But what makes ARGO so great is not an overdose of drama, but that perfect balance of comedy that comes with it.  Chris Terrio has written a screenplay that not only keeps the audience constantly engaged, but lets them breathe with some wonderful one-liners sprinkled throughout. (Most of which come from “Breaking Bad” star Bryan Cranston, who plays Mendez’ CIA buddy Jack O’Donnell…I guess when your job is so serious, you need the funnies to stay sane).  The humor runs especially high with Alan Arkin and John Goodman (he’s popping up everywhere…), who plays real life PLANET OF THE APES makeup artist, John Chambers.  The two help Mendez navigate 1970s Hollywood, while at the same time exposing it for all its ridiculousness.  Both completely steal the scenes they’re in, and when you know you’re about to be stressed out for the next hour, it was a blast to follow these two loonies around for a bit.

As for Affleck, himself, it seems like being a director on his own films has improved his acting tenfold.  Affleck is completely immersed in the script, which lets him easily disappear into the skin of the quiet, discrete, and almost hesitant Tony Mendez.  Somehow, in return for giving up those ‘leading man’ roles that were digging his career grave and instead focusing on work that he loved, Affleck has actually become the George Clooney-esqe leading man that he has always been capable of, and it’s a pleasure to see him reach his great potential.

The story of ARGO is almost too ridiculous to believe.  Hell, even after leaving the theater, I still had trouble accepting the fact that all of this craziness actually happened with the approval of the United States government and CIA.  But that is exactly why the story needed to be told.  And luckily, under the guidance of one of the best directors out there today, we not only received a beautiful, edge of your seat thriller, but a film that does complete justice to an amazing true story that proves the magnificence of the human soul.


Mike’s LIKES:

1) BEN AFFLECK:  After GONE BABY GONE and THE TOWN, Ben Affleck has given us yet another extraordinary film, making him one of the most respected directors in Hollywood today.  His directing and acting skills are growing immensely, and if he doesn’t get an Academy Award nomination for this entry, expect one (as well as a win) to come somewhere down the line.

2) RECREATION OF REALITY: As you watch the end credits and see the side by side comparisons between scenes in the film and photographs taken during the Iranian revolution, you realize the extreme about of detail put into this film.  Both impressive and moving…

3) HUMOR: Chris Terrio found a perfect balance between comedy and drama in his screenplay.  Outlandish, but never offensive or over-the-top, the first half is a perfect balance for what we are about to endure during the second half.

4) JOHN GOODMAN/ALAN ARKIN: These two just looked like they were having an absolute blast playing their respective roles!  Completely destroying Hollywood in their wonderfully sarcastic way, I loved every minute they were on screen.


1) NONE: Overall, ARGO is an excellent political thriller that both makes you laugh and keeps you on the edge of your seat for the entire two hours.


1) The real-life version of the Argo script used by the CIA was actually the unmade feature film “Lord of Light” based on the novel by Roger Zelazny.

2) “Argo” was the ship Jason and the Argonauts sailed in to retrieve the Golden Fleece.

Post navigation

Movie Review: Carnage

Movie Review: The Swell Season

Movie Review Monday: The Hangover Part II

VIDEO: Matt Damon Takes Over “Jimmy Kimmel Sucks” With Nicole Kidman, Robin Williams, Andy Garcia, and Many More!