Review: Director reaches his prime in political film
Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reiterated the threat of nuclear Iran with his undistinguished cardboard bomb chart, and a film about the 1979 Hostage Crisis could worsen the aggressive position on Iran or frustrate one side of the political spectrum.
Miraculously, it doesn’t. “Argo” tries to understand the 1979 Hostage Crisis in which 52 Americans were taken hostage for more than a year. The film focuses on six people who secretly fled to the Canadian Embassy and the American government’s attempts to bring them back through a myriad of unusual tactics, which included sending a fake film production to Iran disguising the individuals as part of the crew with fake credentials.
The film starts by establishing the reasons for Anti-American sentiment in Iran, which is reinforced throughout the film, showing the Americans’ anger without resorting to exaggeration.
Director Ben Affleck’s eye for detail is impressive given the notably excessive research about Iran. Filmed in McLean, Va.; Washington D.C.; and Istanbul, the film gives its audience a sense of being in historic Tehran.
However, “Argo” shows a more conservative Iran than seen in 1979.
Affleck has essentially made two movies — one amidst a revolution and the other in Hollywood. “Argo” takes away some of the time duration but not enough to be intrusive to the flow of the movie.
Affleck’s character, Tony Mendez, makes some inside-Hollywood jokes but quickly phases back to the hostage crisis. Mendez also tries to avoid filming anything with his fake crew when he arrives in Iran.
The transitions between the Iranians’ frustrations, the hostages’ fear, the artificial Hollywood atmosphere and the unpredictable mood in Tehran are smooth throughout the film.
The film avoids obtrusive political jargon and leftist positions of films like “Syriana” and doesn’t confuse the audience. Even with George Clooney as a producer, the film succeeds in not becoming another Clooney-like political thriller. “Argo” is simple in its philosophy, yet complex in its execution.
While “Gone Baby Gone” showed his potential, “Argo” establishes Affleck as a master of film direction.