A window inside life at Augustana College

Argo

So, for my last post of winter term, I figured I’d do something different–a movie review. This might be a bit late in coming, because Argo was released several months ago, but if you haven’t watched it, you really should. It’s been nominated for a bunch of different Oscars (Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor for Alan Arkin, Film Editing, Original Score, Sound Editing, Sound Mixing and Best Adapted Screenplay), and it even beat out Lincoln for Best Motion Picture–Drama at the Golden Globes.

But I’m the first one to admit that awards don’t mean everything. I watched The Descendants, for which George Clooney won Best Actor, and I absolutely hated it. It was nominated for a bunch of Oscars too, if I remember right.

So, I walked into Olin Auditorium at 9:55 pm on Friday night, cautiously excited. The free movies which OSA (the Office of Student Activities) plays every week are usually good (except for a couple that no one has ever heard of like Seven Psychopaths), and really are a boon for broke college kids without cars to get to a movie theatre. I remembered reading a good review of Argo in The Chicago Tribune when it first came out (which is quite miraculous because the Tribune critic rarely likes any movies), but it was one of those movies which you notice and say “Oh, I should see that,” and then never really do.

As soon as the movie started, I was drawn in. The US and Great Britain had set up a puppet Shah of Iran, who became known for extravagance while his people starved. Eventually, the people deposed him and he was given asylum in the US. The Iranian people demanded that he be extradited to face trial, and when the US refused, they staged a riot and overtook the American Embassy, taking about fifty staffers as hostages.

Six consular officers, who happened to be working in the only building with direct access to the street, managed to escape and ended up in the Canadian ambassador’s house. Argo is about the elaborate plot constructed by the CIA, agent Tony Mendez in particular, to get the six safely out of Iran by posing as a film crew scouting for locations.

Though there are some inaccuracies, particularly in the portrayal of the role of Canada, France and Britain in helping the six leave safely, this is without doubt a good film. The script is tightly written with just the right amount of laughs to ease the tension. Alexandre Desplat’s score adds an undercurrent of nerves to the most tricky moments of the film. Though director and producer Ben Affleck has taken some liberties to add that typical Hollywood edge-of-your-seat feeling, you’re biting your nails as you watch the plan unfold–the plan that requires split-second timing.

The opening sequence of the film, a series of storyboards showing a quick history of Iran and the puppet Shah, with a voice-over running in the background was particularly  impressive. It would have been easy for Affleck to portray the Iranians as irrational maniacs demanding the life of an innocent politician. Instead, he chose to reveal the whole truth and the fact that America and Great Britain were responsible for setting the Shah up in the first place.

Lincoln is a great movie too, I don’t deny it. But Argo definitely comes close to matching it. Though none of the actors matches Daniel Day-Lewis’ prowess, the film as a whole is a tight, suspenseful thriller that will make the 120-minute running time seem like no time at all.

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