This is the time of year when so many of those "serious" movies are released; the ones that generate lots of Oscar buzz. Unfortunately, a lot of them don't make the cut when it comes time for the Academy Award nominations.
Trust me when I say "Argo" will be on Oscar's list.
"Argo" tells the absolutely true story of the CIA's plan to rescue six people from Iran by pretending to make a big budget Hollywood film. In November 1979, terrorists stormed the U.S. Embassy in Tehran and took 52 hostages. Six foreign aid workers managed to escape undetected and make it to the Canadian Embassy, where they hide while the U.S. State Department tries to figure out how to get them out of Iran without getting the workers, the Canadian ambassador, and his wife, killed.
After throwing out lots of truly lame and dangerous ideas (including giving bicycles to the workers and having them pedal out of the country in the middle of winter. What???), CIA agent Tony Mendez, played by Ben Affleck, comes up with a plan: Pretend to be a Canadian movie producer who's scouting Tehran as a possible location for a Hollywood film. He'll fly the workers out by pretending they're his film crew.
Sounds crazy, right? No way it's going to work. But as CIA agent Jack O'Donnell, played by Bryan Cranston, says, "This is the best bad idea we have, sir. By far."
Yeah, that's my favorite line of the movie.
Affleck then snags a fading Hollywood producer (actor Alan Arkin) and an Oscar-winning makeup artist (actor John Goodman) to join his fake project. Arkin's Lester Siegel decides the only way the plan will work is to actually pretend to make a film. That means finding a real script.
They happen upon "Argo," a sci-fi movie that appears to be an amalgamation of Star Wars, Star Trek and Flash Gordon; and that's when they start making a fake movie.
You know how this story is going to end. It's a historical event. You can Google it right now. But Affleck, who also directed this movie, has created a gripping, tension-filled film that had me on the edge of my seat. There is a quiet intensity that holds you tight for 120 minutes. I was truly afraid for these people.
Also, I felt like I was in the 1970s. The clothes, the shaggy hairdos, the hideous mustaches and sideburns; I was transported. I've never been a big Affleck fan, but he's really come into his own as a director. This is the third full-length film he's directed. He also directed "Gone Baby Gone" and "The Town," both movies I really enjoyed.
I have four-star rating system. I have to give all four stars to this movie. It's great. Don't miss it. And after you see it, read up on the real story, Mendez, and the declassification of this mission. It's fascinating.
Argo: 4 out of 4 stars. Rated R, 120 minutes.