It’s always interesting, as one who loves movies, to see movies about making other movies. With Ben Affleck’s Argo, a movie based on a true story of pretending to make a “fake movie” that never existed in the first place, it gets even more interesting.
So the film starts by giving us some political background about the situation in Iran (which I definitely needed, history expert that I am). Politics have been unstable in Iran for a long time; basically the country just changes from oppressor to oppressor. The US sets up one, then the Iranians overthrow him and elect their own. The US has sworn to protect the dictator they put in place, which the Iranians are not too happy about. They want him back so they can put him on trial/hang him in the streets. To accomplish this, they take the US embassy by force and everybody inside hostage. However, six employees managed to escape out the back before the crowd fully took over the embassy, and now they are secretly hiding out in the Canadian ambassador’s house, unable to move.
Because the six made it out of the embassy, you might be thinking that they made it to safety, but this is not actually the case. Americans are actually safer inside the embassy than outside of it; the media is so focused on the hostages that killing them will have gigantic consequences. Everyone will know about it, and the US will have to retaliate in some way. Iranians could kill the six that got away and nobody would know about it except… the CIA (and they’re not going to be telling).
So the State Department, with help from the CIA, tries to get the six out of Iran. After a lot of bad ideas get thrown around, including posing as agricultural specialists in the winter when there are no crops growing and bicycling an inordinate distance to the Iranian border, they decide to go with “the best bad idea [they] have” pitched by Tony Mendes (Ben Affleck). They are going to pretend to be scouting for a location to shoot a Star Wars knock off tilted Argo. They’re going to set it up in the States, Tony’s going to fly out to Iran as the associate producer, teach the six their cover stories, and simply fly back home. Crazy, right? It’s so crazy, it just might work! Which, apparently it did.
Argo is a pretty tense film, so it’s good that Affleck gives us some breaks from being about to be discovered hiding out in the Canadian ambassadors house and killed. He cuts back to both the CIA and Hollywood (or, as the sign says, “lly w od”). With Lester Siegel (Alan Arkin) and John Chambers (John Goodman) helping out on the fake movie making side, we get some really good laughs. It’s always nice to see Hollywood making fun of itself. The CIA kind of does this as well, making comments on how inefficiently its run and how the State Department wants to take all the credit.
It’s interesting to see how politics and movies overlap. It’s a natural connection; both are public shows put on to convince people to spend money or votes. Even though we don’t like Hollywood or the government all the time, they really come through for us by the end of this film. Hollywood helps the CIA get six Americans home and out of perilous danger in Iran, and it works, despite all of the obstacles and bureaucracies in both systems.
I don’t know who to give credit to for this, but I also really loved the transitions between scenes. Parallel actions would be performed in different locations, and as one started, someone in another location would finish the same action. It was intriguing to watch and reinforced that everyone in the various locations was working to get the six home.
Argo was a great movie about a movie. Arguably the best thing was the knowledge that something like this did actually happen. I don’t know how much they changed, but I assume they changed some things. It’s pretty unbelievable that this scheme would ever work, which the movie tried to bring across. They were so many moments when it just barely worked and they were able to get away (maybe there were less of these in real life). I feel that if it wasn’t at least semi-true then I would just be like “this movie is just promoting the concept of movies” which is pretty much just depressing commercialism. Of course, this movie does love movies, that’s obvious. But because I love movies too and they put a lot more into it, I was fine with it.
“Ex-fils are like abortions. You don’t want to need one, but when you need one, you don’t want to do it yourself.”
Long story short: 3.5/4 stars
For Further Reading:
Mettle Ray Movie Blog 2013 review
The Best Picture Project 2013 review
Rorschach Reviews 2012 review
fyi the people responsible for scene and shot changes are the editors. i did see a trailer for this and i was moderately intrigued and now i am more so…also the quote of the day is from back to the future part iii!!!!!!
Wikipedia says the editor for Argo was William Goldenberg. So, William Goldenberg, credit goes to you for those awesome scene transitions. (Thanks for telling me that, by the way. I was thinking editor, but then I was like director, maybe? Or some other personage I am not familiar with? So now I know.)
The film was really good. If you have any interest in the 70s (I know you do…) you should see it. Lots of Star Wars references, Planet of the Apes, Van Halen, and Led Zeppelin. I was a happy camper. Plus, you know, the riveting historical drama and stuff.
Yeah, the quote of the day… I was trying to come up with some quote related to Copernicus because I went to the library today to look at the first edition of his book, and this was the closest that I could get. Unfortunately the answer to that question is Einstein. Oh well.
I just finished watching this and you’re absolutely right about the editing. Some really top-notch stuff, and some of the parallel scenes are just so intensely put together. Really engaging movie.
I just watched this again yesterday too! The editing made less of an impression on me the second time around, but it’s still very good. It’s a great film and I think it deserved to win.
Thanks for coming back to comment on this one!
Great review, It’s definitely a little excessive in its praise of hollywood but I can’t begrudge them a little pat on their own backs. I have no problems with this one winning Best picture last year, even if I’d have given it to Django :p
Thanks! And thanks for coming back to comment on this one as well!
Yeah, it is a big old pat on the back for both Hollywood and the CIA, but even they deserve it sometimes 🙂
Yeah, all in all I’m glad it went to Argo. It could have gone to Les Mis and then I would have been mad! I loved Django as well, but if I was the academy The Master would have been nominated and won.