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DVD review: Argo

ARGO

Director: Ben Affleck

Cast: Ben Affleck, John Goodman, Alan Arkin, Bryan Cranston, Victor Garber

Label: Sony DADC

PrIce: R599

Film ****

Special features ***

The movie cuts to 1979 with demonstrators storming into the American embassy at Tehran. While most of the embassy staff is taken over as hostages, six of them escape and hide in Canadian ambassador Ken Taylor’s (Victor Garber) house.

Two months later, the US State department decides to rescue the escapees. They contact Tony Mendez (Ben Affleck), a Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) exfiltration specialist. He comes up with an outlandish idea — to present the escapees as part of a Canadian film crew who had come to Iran to scout for locations for a science-fiction movie titled Argo.

What follows next is how Mendez works closely with John Chambers (John Goodman), a make-up artiste who had earlier assisted on some CIA projects and producer Lester Siegel (Allan Arkin) to put together the fictitious movie. Mendez is pressed for time as the Iranians realise that some embassy staff members had escaped. What follows next is a cat-and-mouse game between Mendez and the Iranian revolutionaries.

Argo has several aces up its sleeves. It has a taut script, well-etched characters and a racy pace. It hooks viewers right from the first scene. While it’s a given that the six escapees will flee Iran, the suspense lies in how they manage to do it. Argo’s biggest triumph is that despite being a thriller, it has its fair share of comedy and emotions. Case in point is the scene where Siegel (Arkin) lambasts a Hollywood financier or the scenes where he, Mendez and Chambers call their pet project as ‘Argo, @#*$ yourself’.

The dialogues stay with you long after the film. Sample this, Mendez telling the US state department officials, ‘An exfil is like an abortion, you don’t want to have one, but when you have to, you don’t do it yourself’ or his boss Jack O’ Donnel (Bryan Cranston) saying, ‘This is the best bad idea that we have.’ Argo boasts of fantastic production values where attention to detail is given to everything right from the sets, props, costumes to the make-up.

The DVD’s special features give viewers an insight into the actual happenings as the real escapees give a first-person account of the events. This helps us empathise with them more and we realise that though Affleck has taken liberties with the film, he hasn’t glamourised the entire operation. Also, the real Tony Mendez comes across as a subdued, highly intelligent official who let his work speak for itself. One of the major highlights of the special features is former US president Jimmy Carter sharing his views about the operation and the initial apprehensions that he had.

However, it would have been interesting to have Affleck and his crew talk about the research that went into the script and the work involved in production design. Overall, Argo makes for wonderful viewing. An Oscar well earned, we say!  

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