Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Argo (Brockway)

Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway

The critically acclaimed "Argo " has arrived at the Tropic. "Argo" is the smooth, crisply directed story of the 1979 Iran hostage crisis, during the Carter Administration. Specifically the film is loosely based on "The Canadian Caper" in which six Americans evaded capture by Islamic militants by taking refuge at the home of Canadian Ambassador Ken Taylor. The film does a wonderful job at illustrating the mixing of Pop Art and life. The story chronicles a time in history when cinematic fantasy was used to accomplish diplomatic goals with integrity and without bloodshed.
The film begins with a brief history of the Shah and Iran's upheaval. The historical figures presented are shown as if they are characters in a "Star Wars" comic book. This is, after all, the era of Luke Skywalker and wookiemania. We see an Indiana Jones version of Empress Farah bathing nude in milk, while the Shah dines on golden roasts, letting his people starve to death.
Militants stormed the American Embassy in Iran and took 52  American hostages that were held for 444 days.
 Actor Ben Affleck directs and stars as real life CIA Agent Tony Mendez, he is mostly grim and resolute in his black beard and Justin Beiber hair that falls over his face. As in "The Sum of All Fears" Affleck is glib and direct. He refuses to take no for an answer. One night as his young son watches The Planet of The Apes, Mendez gets the idea to somehow convince the State Department to grant him access to Iran in an attempt to rescue the six escapees and bring them home. His disguise: a producer for a fake sci-fi story. Iran seems to make the perfect spot for a fake location shoot.
The odyssey begins. 
There is the wise-cracking Alan Arkin as a movie mogul and he has some of the best lines, no matter that his character as played is a little like Carl Reiner in "Ocean's Eleven", or that John Goodman as the makeup artist John Chambers is more than a bit like Goodman's past role in "Matinee" (1993) when he played director Lawrence Woolsey. Even though these roles are no big leaps for the actors, Affleck gives his players room to breathe and become authentic Hollywood types that have made a concrete difference to us as a nation, a difference that has nothing to do with the orange tinsel of Sunset Boulevard.
The action is first rate, as fast paced and engaging as anything featuring Steve McQueen or directed by William Friedkin. Affleck never consumes or dominates his narrative. He cares for the beginning, middle and the all important climax, knowing that the best drama comes from the tension within all of us. The attention shown in this film is near compulsive and Affleck presents the pitfalls of two worlds: America and The Middle East. When all is said and done,the quaint Star Wars action figures are especially touching---a symbol of American hope and lost innocence, not to mention actual photos of the hostages paired with their doppelgängers. 
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