When spies are involved, the truth is very often stranger than fiction. Long before he created the world’s best-known spy, 007 author Ian Fleming was a real one, and his idea to drop a corpse carrying phony war plans off the Spanish coast deceived the Nazis and helped the Allies turn the tide against Hitler.
But Argo may take the cake. The day 52 Americans were taken hostage inside our embassy in Iran, six others escaped and found refuge in the house of the Canadian ambassador. How would we try to get them out without Ayahtollah Khomeini noticing? The CIA propped up a phony movie, sent agent Tony Mendez (Ben Affleck) through Turkey to Tehran posing as a film producer, and he walked the six Americans around town for a couple days as his production crew before attempting an escape.
The fake film was called Argo, hence the name of the real film, which Affleck also directs. And son of a bitch if Ben Affleck isn’t a full-fledged filmmaker. Yes, Gone Baby Gone and The Town are both good pictures, but they could have been farmed out to a number of directors capable of producing the same results. Argo, on the other hand, has a genuine vision, and it’s got to be Affleck’s. The craftsmanship, too, impossible to ignore, is also his.
The tone of this film changes as it bounces around three parallel absurdities — the Islamic Revolution in Iran, the intelligence community in Washington and the unreality in Hollywood. Affleck moves Argo effortlessly from intensity to humor, leaning on John Goodman, Bryan Cranston and Alan Arkin to provide some levity in a film that has to have it. Conversely, Affleck turns to largely unheralded actors as the six refugees, and that helps sell their plight even more.
This is a great film, Gigli fans. We don’t have Ben Affleck to kick around anymore. COLIN BOYD