Argo, Ben Affleck's third directorial outing, tells the true story of six Americans who escaped the American Embassy in Tehran just as it was being taken over by supporters of the Iranian Revolution. The six avoided being taken hostage only to find they were just as trapped. They could not safely leave Tehran, instead taking shelter for more than two months with the Canadian Ambassador.
Affleck plays Tony Mendez, a CIA operative tasked with extracting the non-hostages and bringing them safely back to the United States. After cycling through several bad ideas, he and others eventually decide the best bad idea they have is to create a fake cover as a movie crew, in Iran to do some location scouting.
Shot and edited to look like a thriller from the era, Argo works on just about every level. The acting is realistic and emotional without being flashy, the production values evoke the time and place nicely, and the editing ratchets up the tension very effectively.
If I had one criticism of the film, it would be that the tension at the end seems too forced. There are just a few too many coincidences, a few too many incidents of perfect timing. This story is already tense and incredible enough on its own merits; to add too much makes it feel artificial.
Still, Argo's opening sequence is one of the year's best. The visual and sound editing evoke chaos, terror, tension, and consequence in a truly effective manner. Historically informed audiences will know, at least to a broad degree, where this film will go and what the consequences of larger action will be--which, if anything, make the story even more incredible.
I recommend the film to just about any adult audience, and I think it's one of the best films I've seen so far this year.