Argo toys with two extremes

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SET in the early 1980s and based on an incredible true story, ‘Argo’ focuses on the CIA’s attempts to free American hostages held in Iran, by planning a fake film shoot.

It begins with a documentary style condensed history of Iran, leading up to the Shah of Iran’s exile in 1979.

Angry over the United States’ decision to welcome the Shah, Iranian citizen’s overthrow the American embassy and take hostages - six of whom flee and remain hidden at a nearby Canadian embassy.

CIA specialist Tony Mendez, played by Ben Affleck (who also directs), hatches a plan to enter the country posing as a producer and give the six hostages new identities as crew members working on the film shoot, helping them to escape.

After a very promising start, ‘Argo’ soon takes an unexpected turn - becoming a farcical satire of Hollywood complete with cynical producers, glamorous parties to hype the fake film, a cast dressed like characters from ‘Flash Gordon’ and ‘Dr Who’ and far too much comedy.

This felt forced and out of place and served only to sidetrack from the plot. In one scene, as the costumed actors are giving a script reading for the press, we go back and forth between scenes of violence committed by the Iranian’s to their hostages. As a viewer, I didn’t know how to feel or how Affleck, as director, wanted me to feel. It was a case of two extremes that simply didn’t fit together.

Mendez’s attempts at helping the hostages escape Iran makes for some incredibly tense scenes which had me on the edge of my seat and (literally) caused my heart to pound. Affleck handles the pacing of these scenes masterfully, maintaining the intensity throughout.

Ignoring the silly parts, ‘Argo’ is a compelling film. I highly recommend it.

By Kelan Headley