Life in the Fast Lane


Review: Where Fiction and Fact Meet ("Argo")

By 11:16 AM , , , , , , , , , ,

It's 1997.

I'm a high school sophomore, excited at the prospect of seeing what I think is a mature, adult movie (not in the way you might think, but at least in terms of themes, dialogue, and over-all storytelling, it was "mature" in my eyes).

In Good Will Hunting, I meet, for the first time, Matt Damon and Ben Affleck, and am struck by their on-cam intelligence. They are only in their early 20's and already they are proving to be talented in more ways than one.

I find out later on that they co-wrote the screenplay. They eventually share the Oscar for Best Screenplay the following year.

I know, in my budding film aficionado heart of hearts, that these two would be destined for greatness.


It's 1979.

My parents are practically fresh out of college and enjoying their respective lines of work. Marriage isn't anywhere in the equation yet. Neither are my siblings and me.

Little do they know, though, of the chaos that seemed to be unfolding in the Middle East and the US.

Iranians are enraged because of the US's support of the recently deposed Shah. They invade the US Embassy in Tehran while some of the embassy workers try to destroy classified information. Most of the staff are taken as hostages while six manage to escape and seek refuge in the home of the Canadian ambassador, Ken Taylor. 

In the US, the CIA now has to find a way to rescue all the hostages, especially the six who escaped, because pretty soon, they will have been found out by the Iranians.


It's 2012.

Together with my family members, I take my seat inside a dark movie theater to see Argo. I'm munching on my favorite sour cream fries, robotically staring at the big screen. I don't have any expectations other than the following: 1) Argo was made by Ben Affleck because I'd heard about it; 2) it had something to do with international politics; 3) it must be good because I know that Ben Affleck is amazing; and, 4) my friends were confirming that Argo was, in fact, a "cool movie."

Little do I know that I'm in for a lot of stress over the next hour and a half or so.

Little do I know that I will walk away feeling overwhelmed. In that satisfied, inspired, awe-struck way.


The Argo experience is pretty hard to describe in a word. For one thing, there was the cinematography. The shots paid homage to the era in which the story was set (1970's). From the rightward panning shots as a convertible would enter frame to the low angle shots of the city, I felt as if I were watching a 70's TV show or film.

Then you have the hair and makeup, costumes, and production design. Incredibly detailed (right down to the lettering of the posters) and authentic.

Then you have the score. Again, dated in a way that's not campy but true to the spirit of the decade. The soundtrack complemented the light, humorous scenes as well as the dramatic, suspenseful ones.

Then you have the characterization and acting. Everyone did a superb job and Ben Affleck's Tony Mendez was unbelievably cool and composed despite the stress he had to go through to bring the hostages back to safety. In the end, when the credits roll and you see a side-by-side of the actors versus the personas they portrayed, the photos are almost identical. Kudos to Lora Kennedy, the caster.

Then you have the screenplay. I loved the balance of seriousness and humor as well as the quotable quotes (i.e. "Argo f**k yourself" and "This is the best bad idea we have, sir").

Then you have the over-all direction. The subtle nuances that would slowly but surely trigger suspense even before you realize what's happening. To add to that, the fact that it became as exciting as a suspense film without meaning to be. The contrast between the almost laughable over-the-top publicity stunt in Hollywood versus the gravity of the irate Iranians taking to the streets, burning flags, and hanging people in public squares. How the story ebbed and flowed from one scene to another.

Poster and images nicked from Google.

And when it ends with Tony Mendez's ten-year-old son contentedly asleep on his father's chest, after all the life-threatening situations, you can also breathe a sigh of relief.

I kind of wish there were a sequel, but since the movie was based on real-life events, I'm glad to know that all's well that ended well. No more hostages that needed rescuing, the CIA and embassy workers moved on, the case was eventually de-classified and Tony Mendez was rightfully recognized for his efforts.

Most importantly, how would anyone be able to top a fake movie, complete with a launch party and press events? It doesn't get any sillier — but bolder — than that, really.

Nice one, Ben Affleck. Nice one.

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