Ben Affleck's hostage thriller Argo is gripping and funny

Nov 9, 2012

Actor-director's shamelessly embellished real-life caper is 'one of the best movies of the year'

What you need to know
US thriller Argo, directed by Ben Affleck, is based on real-life events described by former CIA operative Tony Mendez, who was involved in the rescue of six American diplomats after Islamist militants invaded the US Embassy in Tehran in 1979.

Affleck stars as Mendez, a CIA "exfiltration" specialist, tasked with rescuing the six Americans from their hideout in the Canadian embassy. He comes up with an unconventional plan to smuggle them out of Iran disguised as the film crew for a sci-fi movie.

John Goodman and Alan Arkin appear as a duo of dubious Los Angeles film-makers and Bryan Cranston as a CIA bureaucrat.

What the critics like
Heist movies combining comedy with thrills are notoriously difficult to pull off, says Chris Tookey in the Daily Mail, but Affleck does it with panache.  Argo is "always gripping and often very funny", showing he is "the most talented actor-turned-director since Clint Eastwood".

It's an oddball mix of political thriller and movie biz satire, says Henry Barnes in The Guardian. It's a "shamelessly embellished" account of the facts but the film is entertaining and moves to "a heart-racing conclusion".

Ben Affleck doesn't merely direct Argo, says Peter Travers in Rolling Stone, "he directs the hell out of it". He nails the quickening pace, the wayward humour and the nerve-frying suspense. "There's no doubt he's crafted one of the best movies of the year".

What they don't like
Just don't look to Affleck's good-looking, fast-talking thriller for an in-depth lesson on US-Iran relations, says Charlotte O'Sullivan in the Evening Standard. This is a film about how well things work when creative white liberals join forces, but "the high fives don't fit with the facts".

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This is a very fair and accurate review. Affleck's ability to create tension from seemingly everyday events is admirable and the script is very, very good. Worth a journey to your local multiplex this one. Edge of the seat stuff and highly entertaining.