October 15, 2012
When I first saw a trailer for this a few months back, I fell out of my seat chortling with glee, because I knew the story, and I was so pleased that someone decided to make a movie of it, because it’s just fantastic. It’s not mentioned in the movie, but the original Argo script was based on the novel Lord of Light by Roger Zelazny, and the original concept drawings were by comics legend Jack Kirby. The SF community has buzzed about the story of Argo and the hostage rescue for years. Here’s the excellent Wired article on the subject.
So I was really looking forward to this, even more so because it’s directed by and stars Ben Affleck, who I’ve been a fan of for years. I had high expectations for this, and I confess the film didn’t quite live up to them, but it was still quite excellent. The middle dragged a bit, and some of the suspense was a bit too obvious — like when they almost miss the life-or-death thing, and the other thing almost doesn’t come through, and the other thing happens at exactly the last minute (do you see how I’m trying to do this without spoilers?), and a couple more bits, all within the same ten minutes of film — so that I got impatient rather than worried. But the historical details are impressive. Watch for all the cameos of costumes from Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers. The opening of the film runs the takeover of the U.S. Embassy in real time, just about, and it’s completely harrowing.
The film is at its very best when it’s contrasting the bullshit spectacle of Hollywood with the life-or-death spectacle of the Iranian revolution and hostage crisis, and then blurring the line between them, when the Hollywood bs becomes a matter of life or death. It makes for excellent storytelling. Affleck had a nice interview with Jon Stewart on The Daily Show last week where he talked about how in the end the film may be seen as a tribute to American foreign service workers, who often face difficult and dangerous situations without much recognition. He may be right.
And I can’t decide if it’s a good thing or bad thing that this movie seems so timely, what with Iran in the news so much, and history seeming to repeat itself so often.