Friday, October 19, 2012

ARGO

Ben Affleck, Bryan Cranston, Alan Arkin
John Goodman, Victor Garber


"The movie was fake.
The mission was real."

Cinema 2, Shang Cineplex



"Argo" is Ben Affleck's third venture as a director, and I learned 3 things from this film.

(1) I was just a kid when the US Embassy in Teheran was stormed and its employees were taken hostage.  But I remember my parents were tuned in daily for updates on the hostage crisis because after all my diplomat father also worked at an embassy.

Through the years, I read bits and pieces of this event. But it is only through this film, I learned that 6 consular staff from the Embassy were able to 'escape' from the chaotic US embassy and sought refuge in the Canadian Ambassador's residence. 

The rest of the film focuses on how one CIA agent Tony Mendez (Ben Affleck) who disguises himself as a Canadian film producer scouting for exotic locales in Teheran was able to rescue them and bring them home safely.

(2) The US government through its various departments and agencies would do anything within their power and jurisdiction to secure its citizens working and living overseas. During a brainstorming session, the top honchos  deliberate on various scenarios for a daring rescue.  Most of them if not all were bordering on the absurd.

Their final 'operation' sounds like a ridiculous idea on paper yet they managed to pull it off.  They decide to sponsor a fake movie complete with storyboard drawings, full cast and crew, producers and big studio backing, full media coverage (publicity shots) to serve as a front for the rescue.   And although it is a good thing, the operation was a success, "Argo" also exposes just how manipulative the US government can be in its quest to maintain its interests under the guise of protecting its citizens. Creepy, really.

(3) Ben Affleck  is much better at directing films than acting in them.  His technique to use a grainy cinematography reminiscent of the late 1970s is quite clever.  Not to mention his keen eye to details like the authentic wardrobe of the cast, the props (an old noisy typewriter and a clip from "The Battle for the Planet of the Apes " shown on a box type TV set) and a witty almost acerbic dialogue.

Although Affleck is the main character in this film, his subtle acting ensures he doesn't upstage the fine supporting cast led by John Goodman, Alan Arkin and Bryan Cranston to mention a few.

In the end, this 'hidden' chapter in the Teheran US embassy hostage crisis would never have been told if it remained classified.  Although certain parts were highlighted to give the film a gritty and dramatic vibe, this story pays homage to the heroic efforts of one relentless CIA agent who risked his life for the daring clandestine mission.  I'm sure those 6 foreign service employees are eternally grateful for his efforts.

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