Argo (2012)

Argo is the interesting, if not exceptionally engaging, true story of a CIA operation to recover six American hostages in Iran during the 1980s. While the details of the mission are often surprising and interesting, history is against this film, as we all know today that everything worked out fine.

This leads to many scenes filled with obstacles that we know the characters will overcome. They go through an Iranian bazaar, struggle to get past airport security, and eventually onto the plane to take them out of the country. During all of these scenes, the tension feels very forced; rather than focus on the more interesting part of the story (the fake movie they are supposed to be producing and the actions taken by the US government), we are given lots of 5-minute problems.

For example, the hostages are forced to take on new identities in a very short time. What? There’s no way it can be done. What? Okay, we’ll do it.

Argo is full of scenes like this, which by the end become exhausting. There’s not going to be much tension or uncertainty as to the outcome of this mission, so I don’t know why director Ben Affeck wastes his time and ours on trying to draw that out in the audience.

The worst offense is when the hostages and CIA operative are on the plane as it is leaving Iran, and Iranian police cars chase after a plane as it is taking off…surprisingly, the police are unable to stop it. I laughed out loud, wondering if the moment was supposed to be funny or if we aren’t supposed to know that cars can’t outrun airplanes.

One scene I particularly enjoyed was a moment when the hostages’ airplane tickets had to be re-sent to the airport; I appreciated seeing the coordination between Affleck’s actions (in Iran) with those of Washington DC officials. It’s too easy for Hollywood movies to focus on the achievements of one individual, so I welcomed this glimpse of how missions like this requires cooperation from all parties.

This movie was an entertaining one, though unfortunately misguided. It’s as though Affleck misread what would make a good movie about this fascinating story.

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