[***1/2 stars / *****]
Iran, 1979 - a time of repression and hostility, certainly not a time to be featured on tourism brochures.
CIA agent Tony Mendez finds himself in Iran posing as a Hollywood film producer, in order to save six stranded US Embassy employees. Argo, the sci-fi film he is 'producing' exists only on paper.
Time is running out and Mendez must act fast to gain the confidence of the six people, already shattered by their self-imposed 70-day seclusion at the Canadian ambassador's house.
The denizens of Iran come off a little less hostile than the dinosaurs in Jurassic Park.The depiction of the country is harrowing and fits into US paranoia. How much of it is true is but a matter of cinematic liberty and political flavor.
Just like his tight 2010 heist movie The Town, Ben Affleck directs with detachment and control, even as he plays the possible saviour.
Why did Argo won the Best Picture Oscar at the 2013 Academy Awards and why did first lady Michelle Obama announce it from The White House makes a prominent appendix to the movie's streaming afterlife. In a way, Argo ended up as a potential mob instigator for gathering support against the Iranian government.
Political shadows aside, Argo is a well made Hollywood thriller based on true events and in a treatment that amplifies the tense situation cleverly. Worth watching, not a classic but a cut above the rest.
If you want an insider's view into the Iran of 1979 and beyond, the wonderful graphic novel memoir Persepolis and to a trimmed extent - its movie adaptation, provide some genuine insights.