Argo (2012): based on true events


Argo should win!

As tonight is Oscar night, I thought I might tell you who I think should win the award for ‘Best Film’. As you already know, I wasn’t too impressed with most of the nominees this year (Life of Pi, Lincoln, ..) but there were some movies that I really liked, like ‘Silver linings playbook’ and ‘Zero dark Thirty’. However, the movie that definitely deserves to win tonight is Argo!

Argo received ‘only’ 7 nominations: Actor In a Supporting Role (Alan Arkin), Best Picture, Film Editing, Music (Original Score), Sound Editing, Sound Mixing, Writing (Adapted Screenplay). That being said, it should’ve been nominated for Best Director as well, poor Ben Affleck!

November 1979

In 1979 the Iranian people overthrew their Shah, after an era of torture, starvation and fear. However, when the United States give asylum to the Shah, who is dying of cancer, the Iranian people take to the streets outside the US Embassy in Tehran (Iran), demanding that the Shah be returned, tried and hanged.  As you can probably already tell, this movie is based on a true story.

As the Iranians figure out a way to get inside the Embassy, most of the people present are being held hostage and only a small group of 6 people manages to escape and find refuge in the house of the Canadian Ambassador. As the six of them are in much bigger danger than the people taken hostage, the US State Department tries to come up with some ways to get them out of the country, which is called ‘exfiltrating’. Tony Mendez (Ben Affleck), a CIA exfiltration specialist, is brought in for consulting and comes up with a scenario, literally. He suggests to set up a fake movie, Argo, and claim the six people are in fact Canadian filmmakers, who came to Iran to scout for locations for their movie.

Obviously, there are quite a few obstacles along the way: the Iranian people are trying to reassemble personnel files that will reveal that 6 of them are not being held hostage, which would unleash a massive man-hunt. On top of that, the airport was taken over by the Komiteh, the Iranian revolutionaries and every person that gets into the country has to sign a form, which will then be checked once they try to leave the country again. Seeing as how ‘the six’ were already in the country, they don’t have the necessary papers to be able to leave. And last but not least, they need to make the story as convincing as possible and therefore need the help of some people in Hollywood to set up a fake movie, like for example Alan Arkin as Lester Siegel, a Hollywood producer. They also need, amongst other things: a script, posters, storyboards, costumes, read-throughs and press coverage. Mendez is assigned as the associate producer and will fly to Iran to hand the six their new fake identities and try to get them out of the country by plane. Last but not least, he has to make sure that no one finds out the US got those 6 people out of Iran, as the Iranians would respond by retributions against the hostages in the Embassy.

As I’ve said before, this movie was based on a true story, which was only revealed to the public in 1997. I always find movies based on true events just a bit more exciting, because they are obviously closer to reality than other movies, although some elements in the movie were made up to make it a bit more exciting.

Worthy of its Oscar nominations

Argo has all the ingredients to turn this story into a great movie. The script is interesting, it features great music, has some great actors and a great director, it often has some great combinations of shots at the same time, some pretty funny aspects/scenes/quotes as well (Argo fuck yourself!) and so on. On top of that, the way the movie is filmed resembles those of the seventies: the colors being used, the outfits, the fonts used for the titles are exactly what you’d picture when thinking about that era. Although some of the other nominees had these great ingredients as well, Argo is one of the only movies that managed to combine all these ingredients into an exhilarating, tense, nerve-wrecking and beautifully shot movie. At no point whatsoever does this movie turn into a boring political story (unlike Lincoln) and the ending will have you on the edge of your seats! Ben Affleck really did a great job by focusing on the most important parts in the story, and not on unnecessary plotlines, like Mendez’s personal life for example. Every little plotline in this movie is crucial, strong and comes together in a thrilling final take at the airport.

Argo is one of my favorite political movies of this year and absolutely deserved all the praise it got from the press and other award ceremonies. I can only hope the Oscars continue along that line and give this movie what it deserves, even though it deserved much more! If Argo doesn’t win, I really hope the award goes to ‘Zero dark thirty’ or ‘Silver linings playbook’, who are both fine movies as well. Even though I fear it will be the extremely boring ‘Lincoln’ who will go home with the Best Film statuette.

I will do my best to continue to review the other nominees that I haven’t reviewed yet, but as I’m in the middle of moving and I might not have access to the internet for some time, I can’t tell you when they’ll be posted.

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