Argo and the delight of improbable-but-true
Saw Argo, Ben Affleck’s improbably entertaining story of Tony Mendez. He was the CIA “exfiltrator” — an agent who got people out of hot spots — that spirited six U.S. embassy employees out of Iran in 1980 as revolutionaries held 52 Americans during the hostage crisis. For the most part this fast-moving action picture takes care not to trample the ideals of Islamic Revolutionaries furious that the United States gave asylum to the Shah of Iran — while being firmly on the side of the U.S.
It’s an improbable-but-true story in the stylized style of Catch Me if You You Can and Quiz Show about unrealistic figures and situations you wouldn’t believe if you encountered them in a novel. Affleck, the Oscar-winning screenwriter (Good Will Hunting) gets more confident with each successive film he directs (Gone, Baby, Gone and The Town). He also stars in this one, as Mendez, but generously throws the film to supporting players Bryan Cranston, John Goodman and Alan Arkin — the latter two as show-business figures who help Mendez pose as a producer scouting locations in Iran for the purpose of making a film.
It’s a solid, white-knuckle thriller that’s preposterously entertaining. When I walked out I said something I almost never say. That is, I predicted it would win the best picture Oscar, making it two consecutive years that movies about moviemaking won top honors.
A colleague demurred. While it was certainly well-made and entertaining, he agreed, it wasn’t “awards material.”
I countered: “Awards material because Oscar loves nothing better than movies about how movies change the world (i.e., The Artist, Day for Night). Awards material because what Oscar loves almost as much as moves about how movies change the world is movies by actors-turned-directors (i.e., Ordinary People, Dances With Wolves, Braveheart, Unforgiven). Awards material because Alan Arkin, Bryan Cranston and John Goodman so memorable.”
My advice: See it as soon as you can and tell me what you think. Which other films, apart from Catch Me if You Can and Quiz Show, fall into the improbable-but-true category? I’m thinking I Love You to Death, The Positively True Adventures of the Alleged Cheerleader-Murdering Mom, The Queen. You?