It’s not surprising that actor/director Ben Affleck had no problem selling the idea of his new film, “Argo.” In it, Hollywood plays a major role in rescuing six Americans during the 1979 Iranian hostage crisis.
“Argo” tells a true, but obscure story of CIA operative Tony Mendez (Affleck). He uses his Hollywood connections to set up a fake production team for a fake sci-fi movie (also called, “Argo”) as a front to scurry the hidden embassy employees out of Iran. The secret six managed to find refuge in the Canadian ambassador’s residence, just prior to the U.S. Embassy being overrun with hostile protesters.
“Argo” opens on a frightening note with a staffer observing the enraged horde: “The crowd is a little bigger today.” The parallel to the more recent attack on the US Consulate in Libya can’t be ignored.
This movie couldn’t be more timely. Horrifying is the obvious vulnerability of American diplomatic officials in volatile foreign lands.
They seem about as safe as General Custer on his fatal, final day at Little Big Horn.
With the clock ticking, the State Department green-lights what it considers the “best bad idea” for rescuing the six before they are discovered and executed. Mendez travels to Hollywood to enlist the aid of Oscar-winning “Planet of the Apes” makeup artist John Chambers (John Goodman) and schlock producer Lester Siegel (Alan Arkin), who bring levity to an otherwise tense situation. It should be noted that Affleck himself looks more Hollywood than CIA whether in Los Angeles or Tehran. But, he keeps his acting lowkey, which works well with the simmering, ever-escalating suspense.
Scenes “location scouting” with phony “production team” and the final dash to the airport are real nailbiters, up there with the best of Alfred Hitchcock.
“Argo” is Affleck’s third feature and a hit in every way, securing his solid grasp on how to make a movie move.
In fact, Affleck must be a genius. He makes Hollywood look good.