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*no spoilers*

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away. . . .

*fade up heroic music*

Chapter 81: Rescuing the House Guests

It was the time of the Iran Hostage Crisis. Two years before, Iranians stormed the American Embassy in Tehran and took everyone inside as hostages.  President Carter refused to give in to demands to return the Shah back to Iran to face trial for his crimes.  Six American foreign service diplomats were able to sneak out of the compound on the day of the attack, and avoided capture by hiding at the residence of the Canadian Ambassador.  

Days turned to weeks turned to months.

Meanwhile, back in the homeland, Americans are demanding for the safe return of all hostages at the Embassy, totally unaware of the fate of the unknown six.  As politicians take turns with the international squabbling, the Central Intelligence Agency is now tasked to bring home the six, with the help of its main man Tony Mendez.

 

Tony Mendez is the film’s protagonist, no, the hero of this narrative. If we are to follow Campbell’s Monomyth, Affleck’s Mendez fits the heroic role to a T.  I mean, come on. Any self-respecting Star Wars geek would easily catch the allusion when Mendez arrived at the Canadian Ambassador’s house and gave that reworked line, the original, of course, made famous by Luke Skywalker himself in Episode 4. No, I won’t say it, you will have to figure it out. But I swear I could detect the hidden humor in Affleck’s delivery.  Yes, Ben. I caught it. Thank you for not overdoing it.

Indeed, thank you Ben for directing this wonderfully entertaining movie. I’m glad it didn’t wallow in the politics of the situation. That would’ve been too tedious. There were little hints of it, sure, but they were just that. Hints. Not in-your-face political haranguing. It also didn’t bother with the melodrama that was part of the whole tragedy. That would’ve been too Days of Our Lives. It was, for all intents and purposes, a smart action movie without the gunfire. It was an exciting adventure movie minus the huge boulder chasing the hero (well, there’s that one chase scene during the climax that would pass for one, but it was well within the narrative). It was theater of the absurd, with all the farce involved in making a fake movie minus an ending fit for a film, for the fate of everyone aboard this enterprise, this Argo, is yet to be determined.

The Director is the Actor is the Hero.

In a nutshell, CIA Agent Tony Mendez has to pretend to be a Hollywood film producer named Kevin Harkins out to make a film called Argo, to be shot in Iran. But it’s all a sham, an operation called the Hollywood Option, a scheme to bring back the six Americans hiding at the house of the Canadian ambassador in Tehran.  Mendez, on top of handling the logistics of the situation (preparing fake passports and disembarkation documents, handling the fake film press conference/script reading, hiring real filmmakers to help him with this bogus filmmaking project, etc.), must go out there and physically carry the burden of saving the six Americans.  As the agent assigned to the task, he must set aside his personal affairs and rescue the victims. Yes, it is a case of choosing what is the greater good over the personal.  And no matter how prepared the hero is, in the end, problems will be thrown his way, and he will have to make that choice, to go through that defining moment, the very action that will define him as the hero of the tale.

Oh how brave our hero is for going through it all.  Nevermind the uncertain outcome of his quest. Nevermind the possibility of capture, nay certain death.  The hero will have to set aside his fears, cast away all doubts, and just believe that his responsibility outweighs all his fears.  And the moment he makes that decision, the hero, our hero, in our eyes, becomes divine.

Ben Affleck’s directorial hand is very subtle all throughout this movie. You’d hardly feel his directorial presence, and I believe, that is the mark of a great filmmaker.  The director, despite the demands of celluloid will make everything appear oh so easy, oh so seamless. That’s what Affleck did. I am positive that if Affleck decides to pursue this path on a more consistent basis, ten, twenty years from now, his body of work would illustrate the genius of an auteur.  He is already one in the making (on a personal note, I also loved Affleck’s The Town).

Every aspect of the movie— from the production design, to music (kudos to Desplat for another winning score), to the ensemble acting, to the script (funny without being too crass; intelligent without being pretentious) contributes to a well-fermented film. It takes time to set the drama, and it is not afraid to set the film’s pace. Contrary to some claims, it is not a talky movie. A lot of dialogue was necessary to get the story started, but not at the expense of action. But hey, the moment we get to the last 1/3 of the story, I’m telling you, fastening your seatbelts is not an option. It is an imperative.  The entire cinema house, in fact, applauded at the end of the film’s climax. There was a collective sense of relief (of course, there was a moment when I told myself the CIA should’ve just assigned Sydney Bristow to save everyone; heck Daddy Bristow’s already there anyway, not to mention her real-life hubby. But that was a moment of personal absurdity. Carry on).

I would be very surprised and very disappointed if the Academy and the other award-giving bodies out there ignore this excellent showcase of talent by Ben Affleck. It’s high time he gets another Oscar, and this time, not as part of a duo but as the main man on his own.

On a final note: Argo f@*% yourself!

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