Thursday, April 17, 2014
FAIRFIELD-SUISUN, CALIFORNIA
99 CENTS

Review: Ambitious ‘Argo’ one of year’s best films

By
From page B3 | October 12, 2012 | Leave Comment

A movie about the 1979 Iranian hostage crisis probably doesn’t sound like it would be a laugh riot — or should be — but that’s just one of the many ways in which “Argo” is a glorious, gripping surprise.

Directing his third feature, Ben Affleck has come up with a seamless blend of detailed international drama and breathtaking suspense, with just the right amount of dry humor to provide context and levity. He shows a deft handling of tone, especially in making difficult transitions between scenes in Tehran, Washington and Hollywood, but also gives one of his strongest performances yet in front of the camera as the film’s star.

It’s exciting to see the confidence with which Affleck expands his ambition and scope as a filmmaker. His first two movies, “Gone Baby Gone” (2007) and “The Town” (2010), were both smart and suspenseful, but both were intimate crime thrillers set within the familiarity of his hometown of Boston. “Argo” reveals his further mastery of pacing and storytelling, even as he juggles complicated set pieces, various locations and a cast featuring 120 speaking parts.

And the story he’s telling sounds impossible, but it’s absolutely true (with a few third-act tweaks to magnify the drama). Finally declassified in 1997, the daring rescue mission depicted here still didn’t make a huge splash even then. (Chris Terrio’s intelligent script is based on a selection from “The Master of Disguise” by Antonio J. Mendez and the Wired magazine article “The Great Escape” by Joshuah Bearman.) It’s a fascinating tale of bravery, international friendship and plain old moxie, one that’s serious-minded but crowd-pleasing.

Affleck cleverly foreshadows the Hollywood angle with a prelude told in storyboard form, efficiently providing background on the mounting dissent in Iran over the United States’ sympathetic stance toward the Shah. When protestors stormed the U.S. embassy in Tehran — recreated here frighteningly, viscerally — 52 people became hostages for the first of 444 days. But six employees sneaked out a back door and sought refuge at the home of Canadian Ambassador Ken Taylor (Victor Garber).

They became known as “the houseguests,” and with each passing week they spent there, their safety was in increasing danger. Surely their absence would be discovered, with deadly consequences not just for them but for their Canadian allies. Someone had to get them out … but how?

Enter Tony Mendez, a longtime CIA operative who specialized in such rescues — only he’d never had an assignment this perilous before. With the long, shaggy hair and full beard of the era (which makes him a dead ringer for Dave Grohl of the Foo Fighters), Affleck plays the part of the quiet, world-weary force who comes up with the craziest of schemes.

Mendez would fly to Tehran under a false name and pretend he’d come there with the six U.S. officials. They’d all pose as a film crew scouting locations for a sci-fi action flick called “Argo.” With fake passports in hand (provided by the cooperative Canadian government), they’d walk right out the front door, get on a plane to Switzerland and fly home to safety. As Mendez’s boss at the CIA (a commanding Bryan Cranston) puts it, “This is the best bad idea we have.”

It could all go wrong at any second, of course, with the capriciousness of those in power creating a dangerous variable. But the Americans had to know their parts inside and out, and the film at least had to look real enough to fool people — and for that, Mendez turns to an old friend, makeup artist John Chambers (John Goodman, with a wonderful mix of warmth and sarcasm). Chambers in turn hooks him up with veteran Hollywood producer Lester Siegel (a hilariously no-nonsense Alan Arkin), who puts the wheels in motion to give “Argo” the necessary authenticity: big ads in the trades, a production office on the Warner Bros. lot, even the media circus of a script read-through.

A cheesy “Star Wars” rip-off, “Argo” would have been total schlock if it had actually seen the light of day, and that’s a major source of humor that’s inside-Hollywood without being alienating. As Siegel says, if he’s going to make a fake movie, “it’s going to be a fake hit.”

Working with a top-notch production team, including cinematographer Rodrigo Prieto and composer Alexandre Desplat, Affleck creates a vivid ’70s vibe while moving fluidly between these intersecting storylines. While steeped in the trends and filmmaking style of the decade, “Argo” still feels immediate and relevant. Affleck’s best film yet is also one of the best films of the year.

“Argo,” a Warner Bros. Pictures release, is rated R for language and some violent images. Running time: 120 minutes. Four stars out of four.

Christy Lemire

LEAVE A COMMENT

Discussion | No comments

The Daily Republic does not necessarily condone the comments here, nor does it review every post. Read our full policy

.

Solano News

Supervisor candidates square off at forum

By Barry Eberling | From Page: A1, 11 Comments | Gallery

 
Carli takes oath, now Vacaville’s 14th police chief

By Susan Winlow | From Page: A1 | Gallery

 
Huge jump in Solano median home price

By Brad Stanhope | From Page: A1, 8 Comments | Gallery

 
Donate a car, help build a house

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A3

 
Solano DA hosts workshop to fight human trafficking

By Ian Thompson | From Page: A3, 16 Comments | Gallery

Drugs topic of cardiac class

By Adrienne Harris | From Page: A4

 
Fairfield town hall on crime delayed

By Ryan McCarthy | From Page: A4, 12 Comments

 
Railway museum offers wine-tasting rides

By Adrienne Harris | From Page: A4

 
Suisun Police log: April 14, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A12

 
Weather for April 17, 2014

By Daily Republic | From Page: B12

Fairfield police log: April 15, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A12, 1 Comment

 
Suisun City police log: April 15, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A12

Fairfield police log: April 14, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A12

 
.

US / World

Armed robber was never told to report to prison

By The Associated Press | From Page: A1

 
Lost sea lion in California found mile from water

By The Associated Press | From Page: A4

Body of California man who jumped into river found

By The Associated Press | From Page: A4, 1 Comment

 
Seabird from Atlantic spotted on Alcatraz

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

Ex-Bell city leader gets 12 years in prison

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5, 1 Comment

 
California delays decision on protecting gray wolf

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

Court rules for environmentalists in water fight

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

 
Governor calls special session on rainy day fund

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5, 1 Comment

NATO ups military presence amid Russian threat

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10, 1 Comment

 
Denver police eye 911 response time after killing

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10, 1 Comment

Man charged with marathon hoax is held on bail

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

 
Geneva talks on Ukraine face steep hurdles

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

Pro-Russian insurgents seize armored vehicles

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

 
Ferry sinks off South Korea; 6 dead, 290 missing

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

.

Opinion

Obamacare news you probably missed

By Martin Schram | From Page: A11, 7 Comments

 
Editorial Cartoons for April 17, 2014

By Kim Durbin | From Page: A11

In support of Pam Bertani

By Letter to the Editor | From Page: A11, 12 Comments

 
Parenting demands responsibility

By Ruben Navarrette | From Page: A11, 2 Comments

 
.

Living

A lesson in household budgeting

By Chris Erskine | From Page: A2

 
Today in History for April 17, 2014

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

Community Calendar: April 17, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A2

 
Horoscopes for April 17, 2014

By Holiday Mathis | From Page: A9

 
.

Entertainment

TVGrid

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

 
Daniel Radcliffe on why New York audiences rock

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

Alicia Silverstone out with book ‘Kind Mama’

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

 
Jenny McCarthy announces engagement on ‘The View’

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

Ailing Malcolm Young taking break from AC/DC

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

 
Disney Channel’s ‘Jessie’ breaks romantic ground

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

.

Sports

Crawford’s 41 points leads Warriors over Nuggets

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
Vacaville’s Peralta to wrestle at San Francisco State

By Daily Republic staff | From Page: B1

Angels beat A’s 5-4 on Iannetta’s HR in 12th

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
MEL, SCAC tangle in hoops all-star games

By Paul Farmer | From Page: B1

Sharks take goalie questions into rematch vs Kings

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

 
Sidney Rice agrees to terms with Seahawks

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Goodwin helps Suns to 104-99 win over Kings in finale

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2 | Gallery

IndyCar driver Saavedra fined $10K

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Sandoval’s single lifts Giants past Dodgers, 2-1

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2 | Gallery

Officer: Sharper’s DNA found on 1 Arizona victim

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Jets sign former Titans RB Chris Johnson

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Spieth ready for more after Masters success

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Backup QB Matt Flynn returns to Packers

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Atlanta lands MLS expansion team for 2017

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Bucks owner Herb Kohl reaches deal to sell team

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
.

Business

Yellen: Fed stimulus still needed for job market

By The Associated Press | From Page: B4

 
Some exempted from minimum wage, increased or not

By The Associated Press | From Page: B4

Fed survey: Growth picks up across most of US

By The Associated Press | From Page: B5

 
Bank of America posts loss, hurt by legal charges

By The Associated Press | From Page: B5

IBM posts lower 1Q earnings amid hardware slump

By The Associated Press | From Page: B5

 
Google’s 1Q earnings disappoint as ad prices slip

By The Associated Press | From Page: B5

.

Obituaries

.

Comics

B.C.

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Baby Blues

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Pickles

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Sally Forth

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Peanuts

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Wizard of Id

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Beetle Bailey

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
For Better or Worse

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Zits

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Blondie

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Get Fuzzy

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Baldo

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Dilbert

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Frank and Ernest

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Garfield

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Rose is Rose

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Cryptoquote

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

 
Bridge

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

Crossword

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

 
Sudoku

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

Word Sleuth

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9