Argo hits the spot

It’s a funny feeling when you watch a movie reenactment of an historical episode part of which you witnessed 40 or so years ago. This is the case with the incredibly impressive Argo, a new movie which tells the tale of the rescue of American citizens caught up in the hostage drama in Iran in 1979. I travelled through Iran, and stayed in Teheran, a few months before the Shah fled to the West. The demonstrations and sense of doom portrayed in the film are exactly as I remember. Starring Ben Affleck as Tony Mendez, the CIA ‘exfiltration’ officer, Argo relates the storming of the American Embassy and the escape of six officers who are taken in by the Canadian Ambassador. The race against time begins as the Iranians check secret embassy documents and uncover the fact that there are six embassy workers unaccounted for, while Mendez is trying to convince his CIA superiors of the viability of his rescue plan to shoot a fake movie called Argo, using Teheran as the location, and exiting with the six Americans, now rebadged as Canadians with fake identities, passports and accents – all in a handful of days. There is so much to like about this film – it is an old-fashioned plot-driven thriller, with brilliant casting, in particular the inimitable Allan Arkin as Hollywood producer Lester Siegel. There is humour, too, particularly at the expense of the bureaucracy within the CIA. Years ago this story would have been told with an overdose of patriotic sentiment; with hearts, flowers and America the Beautiful at every twist and turn. Now in the sure but subversive hands of producers Affleck, George Clooney and Grant Heslov, the true comic elements are allowed to surface, and life does indeed prove to be stranger than fiction.

If you enjoy a fast-paced political thriller with great acting, then this is the one for you. It’s certainly the best movie I’ve seen in a long, long time.