Spies in Hollywood are having a good time of it lately (spies in real life – not so much: am guessing GCSB isn’t Jonkey’s favourite acronym right now…). CIA drama Homeland cleaned up at the Emmy Awards, the latest Bond film Skyfall is being called by some the best Bond ever, and now a spy drama is in the front running for the Oscars. That drama is Argo.
This Ben Affleck directed film tells the true story of six US embassy staff who escaped out a back door of the embassy during the Tehran Hostage Crisis – and ended up camped out in the home of the Canadian Ambassador. Affleck plays the CIA agent who is sent in to get them out. His cover – they are making a science fiction movie and the six of them are in Iran location scouting. Yep – it’s the kind of crazy idea that could only be true. As Bryan Cranston quips in the film ‘this is the best bad idea we have, sir. By far’.
The plot sells itself. But add to that a cast of the calibre you have here, and it’s a sure-fire hit. Affleck of course, but also Cranston as his CIA boss (a long way from his meth-dealing character in Breaking Bad), Alan Arkin as a Hollywood producer, John Goodman as a Hollywood prosthetics man/CIA contact, and a brilliant supporting cast – especially in the Iran sequences. They are a pleasure to behold, especially when they are gifted one of the best scripts I have seen in recent years – you wouldn’t think such a story would be cause for laughter but chortle you will. Some simply superb one liners, and an on-going play on the movie’s title that I shan’t ruin by telling you here 😉
And this is a unique beast – a big name film with a relatively big name director (Affleck isn’t just a pretty face – as he proved with Gone Baby Gone and The Town) that isn’t too big for its boots. It would be so easy to sensationalise this story but Affleck uses a steady hand to rein things in – he lets the story create the drama rather than using tricks of the trade. It will have you on the edge of your seat, without coaxing you there with an overblown score or clever editing. And it helps if – like I did – you go into it not knowing how it will all turn out in the end.
I can tell you how this particular Argo will turn out in the end though – with 4 and a half M&Ms from me, and a decent shot at Best Picture, Best Screenplay and Best Director at February’s Oscars.