The story told in Argo is so outrageous that it has to be true: a covert operation to rescue hostages from an enemy country involves creating a fake movie–complete with press release and posters–and having the hostages pose as a Canadian film crew. The inane idea comes from Tony Mendez (Ben Affleck, who also directed), who heads to Hollywood to round up the right crew of fake producers, while also navigating the world of government and covert operations.
Argo is intense and taut, even while knowing the outcome of the historical story. The opening takeover of the embassy and the rescue operation of the hostages bookend a well-crafted and engaging thriller. While each character is adequately developed to foster affect, Affleck allows the situation to be the center of the film, with each character defined by this moment in history. What choices did they make? How did they take responsibility for their actions? There are also plenty of humorous moments–particularly with John Goodman and Alan Arkin as Mendez’s Hollywood cohorts–and the irony behind Argo‘s movie-about-making-a-fake-movie premise is not lost on Affleck.
Affleck became a movie star as an actor, but has proven himself as an even better director. Now with Gone Baby Gone and The Town on his resume, the filmmaker can make the claim that he hasn’t made a bad feature film yet. With so many remakes and misfires coming out of Hollywood, it is refreshing to see filmmakers crafting art that is both entertaining and enlightening.
Argo offers a glimpse into the unknown protagonists of our culture. These are quiet heroes rarely recognized for their courage. Tony Mendez is given an award, but never allowed to truly be recognized for what he’s done. The people he just saved aren’t shown thanking him in the midst of their celebrations, apart from a knowing handshake on the plane back to America. No, while the hostages embrace each other in triumph, Tony stares out the window of the plane in quiet contemplation, having done his job and his duty. “Someone is responsible,” he tells his superiors. While other government and political leaders are passing the blame for the situation, he’s the man who takes responsibility for his own actions and steps into danger for the sake of others.
It’s not just Mendez; the Iranian housekeeper is another quiet hero who saves lives and risked her own with a simple act of deceit that plays out like a modern-day Rahab. Approached by Iranian forces looking for escaped hostages, she offers a simple reply: “Everyone in this house is a friend of Iran.” A brief-but-important scene coinciding with the hostage flight depicts her own escape into Iraq. I don’t even remember her character’s name, but I certainly remember her actions.
The true heroes of history likely aren’t the ones currently trending on Twitter. They are the ones who quietly serve the common good, showing up without extravagance or bravado while having enormous impact on the lives of others. They are like mustard seeds; though the smallest of seeds, when it grows, it is the largest of the garden planets and becomes a tree, a source of life and shelter for those who nest in it.
IMDB Listing: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1024648/