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Movie review: 'Argo'

“Argo” is a no-nonsense and quietly stunning film that could play as a dark satire of covert ops and diplomacy, but it's all true — even the elements that look like Hollywood exaggeration.
Oklahoman Published: October 12, 2012

There are composite characters in “Argo,” including Mendez' C.I.A. supervisor Jack O'Donnell (Bryan Cranston) and Siegel, a fictionalization of Chambers' colleague Robert Sidell, but the other 95 percent of this story is completely true, and Affleck's recreation of scenes and people from this crisis is uncanny. The verisimilitude on display in “Argo” is magnified by Affleck's commitment to unflashy, realistic depiction and cinematographer Rodrigo Prieto's use of natural light. The film not only looks like a document of its era, but resembles the great dramas Alan J. Pakula and Sidney Lumet directed during that time.

Affleck's work both as director and star sets the correct tone and is a major source of the film's believability. As Mendez, Affleck is a quiet and forceful presence, simply and emphatically laying out the particulars of the operation to his charges. Mendez is a man of action, not an action hero. He maintains composure in front of the people he is trying to save, and at no time in “Argo” is there any question that Mendez completely understands the gravity of his situation or the stakes involved.

But since Affleck began the second chapter of his career, becoming the fine director of dramas such as “Gone Baby Gone” and “The Town,” he seems nearly as cognizant of great storytelling as his “Argo” character is of the mortal realities of his mission. This is why “Argo” is such a tour de force: Affleck knows that a true story, especially one in which lives were hanging in the balance, should respect the emotional truths faced by the people who went through it.

George Lang

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R2:004 stars

Starring: Ben Affleck, Alan Arkin, Bryan Cranston, John Goodman, Victor Garber. (Language and some violent images)


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