Argo: led better


A bit late, but I finally managed to see the much-admired Iran/US hostage crisis thriller Argo today. I missed out on it when it was general release, partly because I seem to have conceived an irrational animus against its director and star, the perfectly benign, if at one time somewhat over-exposed in the media, Ben Affleck – well, more fool me, because this is one of those movies that is actually as good as everyone says it is. Or better even: while it’s easily as detailed and convincing in its depiction of the ins and outs of covert American intelligence operations as the recent Zero Dark Thirty, it also manages to transcend its notional genre and function in places as both a satisfying human-interest drama and a wickedly irreverent comedy (any of the bits with John Goodman and Alan Arkin in). And unlike ZDT it also makes the effort to contextualise the challenges of the CIA within a broader political framework and to present the point of view of the opponents of the mighty US of A, mainly via an opening montage and voiceover that makes explicit the West’s complicity in the suffering of the Iranian people under first the Shah and then the Ayatollahs. Mainly though Argo is a must-see because it’s such a well-made, intelligent and gripping example of the heist movie, with the stakes made plain, the situations mined for maximum tension without resort to shock tactics (although one or two elements of the climax strain credibility just ever so slightly) and bountiful delightful 70s stylings and hirsute, harried and large-lapelled swearing down phones in offices to be enjoyed. It never once sags or meanders, and I can’t remember the last time I laughed out loud as often in the cinema. This write-up has been deliberately light on specific plot detail so’s not to spoil anyone’s enjoyment in the slightest – you should see this film as soon as you possibly can, and I’ll never take Affleck’s name in vain ever again, Scouts honour.


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