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12 Oct. 2012

Powerful and Satisfying, ARGO builds upon Ben Affleck’s Hollywood Cachet


Seeking a fulfilling movie experience to satisfy your big screen theater appetite? ARGO is it.

This taut and insightful thriller is taken straight from the pages of American history, circa 1979 Tehran, when the US hostage crisis was the most talked about news story of the day.  ARGO, both starring and directed by Ben Affleck (Armageddon, Daredevil, Pearl Harbor, Good Will Hunting), extracts from a 2007 news article written by Joshuah Bearman for Wired Magazine, titled, “The Great Escape.”

Some 33 years ago, Iranian students besieged the US Embassy, angry and set upon revenge against Americans, taking dozens into custody. Amazingly, six Americans avoided capture, holed up in the home of the Canadian Ambassador, awaiting rescue.

Enter CIA operative Antonio “Tony” Mendez (Affleck), skilled in high-risk rescue missions, this time, without a plausible plan in hand to free the hostages. An inconceivable rescue plot is presented that involves a fake movie, a willing film producer and participation from a helpless band of young Americans with no way out.
Mendez convinces his higher ups in government that staging a fake movie– set in Iran– is the only way to rescue the Americans by having them pose as a Canadian film crew on assignment.
Affleck’s adept approach to fashioning ARGO teeters between nail-biting anticipation and unexpected humor.

Throughout, the intensely fueled story is offset by the comedic offerings of Alan Arkin (Little Miss Sunshine) and John Goodman (Arachnophobia), cast as Hollywood heavy weights Lester Siegel and John Chambers, celebrated for their accomplishments in producing and prosthetics, respectively.
Arkin’s Siegel is mostly irascible and certainly comical. Goodman’s Chambers is equaling entertaining and goes along with the Mendez scheme in the name of serving country. The three men pour through numerous movie scripts looking for the one most likely to match this unimaginable strategy. Therein lies ARGO, and they set off to contrive abroad, the “Hollywood” of fantasies, lies and grandiosity.
As wacky as it sounds, the movie is fact-based. Moreover, it is by far one of the best films of 2012 and deserves the accelerated buzz coming its way.

Affleck –who grew lengthy facial hair for the role is married to Jennifer Garner (The Kingdom) and father to their three children– can have his way in the current Hollywood system, picking among any role available, particularly following the acclaim for his freshman and sophomore helmed films: Gone Baby Gone and The Town.

His touch is golden.

Further to Affleck’s credit, his recent career choices speak volumes about his cachet. Not to be overlooked, the Oscar winning writer, global humanitarian and handsome leading man uses his celebrity to champion courageous causes, namely   the economically challenged Democratic Republic of the Congo, where he has teamed with others to support fair trade endeavors and entrepreneurial platforms.

Seemingly not affected by the glorified air he finds himself in, the 40-year-old, at times blushed, amid critical praises during a press conference in Los Angeles to discuss his latest film feat that potentially could walk away with a truckload of statues this awards season.

Excerpts from his comments follow–

“When I got the script, I couldn’t believe how good it was.  I was amazed; it felt like it should have been a ten hour mini-series.”

Having made two previous critically acclaimed films–

“I’ve learned that you can’t make a movie that works and much less is good, one must have really good writing and really good acting.  That lesson has lead me to not worry about, or be distracted by the other stuff going on in filmmaking rather to focus on the essence of the story, the words, the events and the way that those are interpreted by the actors.  That philosophy has taken me to a place that I really like.”

Affleck commands both sides of the camera in ARGO–

“What struck me, almost right away, was you had this thriller and then in equal measure a kind of comic Hollywood satire along with this sort of intricate real life CIA spy story; it’s all based on truth.  That seemed like a fantastically interesting and unusual movie to be part of and I really wanted to direct it. The actor side of my brain that’s still in that phase of auditioning and trying to make connections and get work, asked the director of that movie for a job and the director was in sort of a tough spot and had to say, ‘yeah.’”

Former US President Jimmy Carter factors into ARGO–

“The Jimmy Carter thing (an excerpt from President Carter during the time of this incident is used in the film) came about because I wanted to hear Carter’s voice as this took place under his administration and to cement that aspect into the audience’s mind. You’re the person who is the president of the United States who ordered this mission saying ‘yes it is legitimate.’ I thought that would lock in the narrative. I didn’t want it to be a referendum on the Carter presidency, that wasn’t the point or to politicize the movie; it had to be a delicate balance. And that’s why we used his voice because it seemed like it could be him talking out of a press conference or an interview maybe ten years ago or twenty years ago or so.”

 

Additionally, ARGO touches upon the social strata of the day including gender–

“One of my hopes is for this film to engender these sorts of discussions which I think has become so critical in where we are in world affairs. I think it’s important to talk about it. We tried to include within the prologue issues about women’s rights. We showed female scientists working in a lab and the flip side of what the Shah did; he sort of accelerated progress for women among other things. Those steps were emblematic of the kinds of things that inflamed tensions between him and his regime in a largely traditional Shiite population in Iran. His father of course had forcibly removed the veil from women in that country and had done it at the end of a gun barrel. And I think this theme of the unintended consequences of great powers getting into business with regimes in other countries is highly relevant.

Today, you have Egypt, Syria, Tunisia, and so on.  While I didn’t want to be didactic and I didn’t want to indicate to the audience this is how they should feel, we did want to factually tell this story.  We talked about how we believe our (the US) support of the Shah was right, in part, because of his progressive stand on a lot of these issues; we looked the other way in terms of some of the political repression. The absence of democracy, some of the atrocities that took place… that narrative very closely mirrors a narrative around other countries primarily in the Middle East so it wasn’t really about placing a value judgment on what happened to women after the Islamic revolution.  I mean, we were all kind of operating under was the assumption that people kind of know so I hope that assumption was present that things didn’t go well for many people in that country, chief among them, women after the Islamic revolution in Iran.”

ARGO has also been termed a political thriller—

“It was always important to us that the movie not be politicized. We went to great pains to try to make it very factual, knowing that it comes out before an election in the United States when a lot of things get politicized.  At the time, we couldn’t forecast how terrible things would become.  When we made the movie we saw some residents to the Arab Spring, the countries that were in tumult, so naturally, we just wanted to be judicious and careful about presenting the facts and standing firmly behind that. This is an examination of this part of the world and just because a part of the world is undergoing strife and tumult doesn’t mean you stop examining it or you stop looking at it or talking about it. I think that would be a bad thing.”

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