Argo

It’s hard to talk much about the movie without giving away the ending, unless you know your history – and this happened before my time. But I will say it was darn suspenseful, throughout the entire movie, and good job selling us on the time period via wardrobe that includes magnifying-lens-sized glasses that probably weigh enough to warrant reconstructive facial surgery.

The movie does a great job of introducing the plot through a storyboard during the opening credits, with a narration that marries the fake movie to the history that this movie is based on.

At a time when brown was the new black, Iranian revolutionaries overtake the American embassy. Six Americans escape and find refuge in the Canadian Ambassador’s home, but thanks to the work of a sweat shop, these six are about to be identified. The C.I.A. works against the clock to rescue the Americans before they are captured and killed (if not worse). The counter-intellect goes running to Hollywood, or so goes the story.

This is where things go from intense to quirky, and that’s where John Goodman and Alan Arkin usually come in. The exfiltration cover is that these six, plus Afleck’s character, Tony Mendez, are scouting filming locations. The so-crazy-it-just-might-work angle is really starting to hit it’s stride, but we change pace almost as quickly as we started and it’s back to intense business.

If you’re hoping for something more of a “Wag the Dog” kind of story, but with suspense and intrigue, this is for you. While I don’t think the movie deserves its best picture award, I will say that it kept up the suspense.

While it’s engaging to watch a movie based on actual events, I always mine for true-to-life parallels, and the irony is that the parallels of Argo are drawn between Hollywood and our government: Both are institutions wasteful with money, married to the media, appealing to whichever demographic makes them most popular, and require lots of red tape to get through before anything of substance is achieved.

…and this, dear reader, is where the allegory ends. There is, however, one other thing I appreciated about the film, something that again reminds me of Zero Dark Thirty. The C.I.A. spooks and the hollywood goons who assisted them were all personally motivated to do what was right by another person. Usually we see all about the political angles, and the agents involved are of the anti-hero type. This time around, we get to see a very vulnerable character, who despite his gravest fears and deepest doubts, when he has nothing to lose to walk away from it all, make the decision to stand by his countrymen. If only our government would be that personally motivated today!

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