Review: Affleck proves himself with ‘Argo’

Ryan Morris

Editor’s Note: The following reflects the opinions of the author.

“Argo” is a dramatized historical representation of the secret CIA operation to rescue six American hostages from Tehran in 1979, at the height of the Iranian Revolution, and it rightfully rivals “Les Miserables” and “Lincoln” for Best Picture at this year’s upcoming Oscars.  

The Iranian hostage crisis, as it was known at the time, concerned 52 American hostages, who were held in captivity for over 400 days. “Argo” tells the story of the six who escaped that crowd and Tony Mendez (Ben Affleck), the man who led the operation to save them by conceiving the best so-crazy-it-might-work scheme he could think of. 

The plan was to fake the production of a movie and set it to be filmed in Tehran. The six hostages were given false identities as members of the production crew and Mendez became Kevin Harkins, their producer. The movie they chose to create was a science-fiction flick called “Argo.”

Mendez, played by Affleck, was given a heartwarming back-story as a loving father going through a painful separation from his wife.

There’s a dramatized scene when Mendez has a light-bulb moment about how to free the hostages as he watches “Planet of the Apes” on TV while talking to his son on the phone. In typical Hollywood fashion, the effect is humanizing and cements Mendez as an American hero to be cheered on throughout the film. 

Alan Arkin, John Goodman and Victor Garber were also notable in their roles as the Hollywood big shots backing the fake film and the Canadian ambassador hosting the refugees, respectively.  

Besides character development, “Argo” is impressive for the historical way it was filmed. 

Actors watched television programs playing actual footage from the hostage crisis and the scenes in Tehran were recreated to look exactly like what was shown on the programs.  The skeptic can read the true details of the CIA-gone-Hollywood rescue story at Though Affleck and the rest of the crew may have stretched some of the details – the bit about Mendez’s relationship with his estranged wife was surely a Hollywood addition – the main points of the mission are all sound. 

Perhaps the best part of “Argo” came at the end of the movie, when as the credits rolled a voice came over the screen commending Mendez and the Argo mission. The voice was never named, but students of history and those who lived during his presidency knew right away that it was the actual voice of President Jimmy Carter. 

Though it may not win “Best Picture” – after all, 2012 was an incredible year for movies – “Argo” will go down as one of the best historical dramas filmed in a long time.

Rating: Four out of four stars.

Story: EMMA SPECKMAN, Senior A&E Reporter