In a year with so many big action sequences and huge blockbuster films hitting the cinema screen it would be easy for Argo to have escaped attention. Argo depicts the unbelievably true story of the rescue of six American diplomats in Tehran, Iran during 1979 in which CIA operative Tony Mendez (played here by Ben Affleck) attempts to infiltrate Iran and get the diplomats out by pretending to be a film crew scouting locations for their new science fiction film titled Argo.

The obvious problem when making a film about a rescue mission is thus: audiences primarily go because they want to see the rescue which puts pressure on the build up to the rescue because it becomes a hard task to get your audience invested in your characters and your story. It was a worrying start for Argo, I felt, because the opening narration which outlines Iran’s state at the time of the events seemed pretty boring and while not exactly irrelevant, it wasn’t actually needed either. Fortunately these early concerns of boredom were soon put to rest, largely thanks to Ben Affleck, although not for his acting.

Ben Affleck is not often quoted as anyone’s favourite actor and, in all honesty, I don’t think his performance in Argo as Tony Mendez will change that at all. Tony Mendez seems to come across as quite a boring although no doubt brave and intelligent man but he’s not a character who immediately gains your interest and pulls you into the story. Fortunately, Ben Affleck is a wonderful director and he directs Argo as well as starring in it and he does a brilliant job of really capturing the emotion of the story. Every time that the film goes back to Iran and focusses on the stranded Americans the film seems to dig a lot deeper than most, with real panic, stress and human pain being shown and Affleck very subtly leaves the empathic audience to really get a feel for the conditions and sadness of the situation by themselves.

Ben Affleck is helped by the fact that he has a very experienced cast for him to direct. The cast combines stars of both television and film in the forms of Bryan Cranston, John Goodman, Alan Arkin, Scoot McNairy and Kerry Bishe among others. Every cast member puts in a more than adequate performance and really bring to the forefront the emphasis on emotion and character. Along with Affleck’s brilliant direction it is partly Goodman and Arkin’s double act and comedic moments that help to sustain interest before the actual rescue takes place.

Once Afflek’s character touches down in Iran and meets the diplomats that is when the pace begins to quicken and things begin to get a lot more interesting! The rescue itself is nail biting stuff that will make your heart thump out of your chest. There is so much suspense and tension created, conflict between the characters, flaws in the plan, will the be found out or not? I think you are best of seeing Argo with no knowledge of the real life escape to save yourself from ruining the ending of the film. Although, even if you do know how the situation resolves itself you will still be overcome with emotion as you will the escape to happen and you wish for everyone to make it out of Iran safely. Of all the films I have seen this year Argo is the one that has created the most tension and suspense. The final act is incredibly gripping, nail biting, edge of your seat entertainment and the audience is rewarded with a fantastic ending.

It would be wrong to call Argo a feel good film but the sense of elation that runs through your body with the climax of the film is unmatched by most films this year. I would suggest that Argo could well be a dark horse for an Oscar nomination. It truely deserves the hype and brings the emphasis of the cinema back to human stories. Just brilliant.

My Rating: 8/10.

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