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Laramie Movie Scope: Argo

True story becomes Hollywood escape thriller

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by Robert Roten, Film Critic
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October 16, 2012 -- It turns out all that Oscar buzz over the movie “Argo” is just hype after all. This is a good movie, but there is no way it should be nominated for Best Picture. Stranger things have happened, but this based-on-fact movie has been so needlessly cobbled up with Hollywood suspense clichés that it's credibility has been left in tatters. What we are left with is a kind of Great Escape without the big stars.

Ben Affleck stars and directs this escape caper, playing heroic CIA agent Tony Mendez. He comes up with an unlikely plan to free six people from Iran who escaped from the U.S. Embassy in Tehran during the 1979 hostage crisis and have been hiding out in the Canadian Ambassadors house. Mendez pretends to be a Hollywood movie producer in Iran with his advance crew to scout locations for a science fiction movie called “Argo.” The six people from the embassy will pretend to be his crew, get Canadian passports and fly with him out of Iran.

John Goodman plays makeup artist John Chambers and Alan Arkin plays producer Lester Siegel. Chambers and Siegel help Mendez with the Hollywood end of things, obtaining a script, setting up an office, stirring up publicity for the project in order to make it look legitimate. If this movie is to have a shot at Academy Awards, this is the angle that might appeal to Academy voters. The idea that Hollywood types helped rescue Americans trapped in Iran. In the movie, Siegel and Chambers go above and beyond the call of duty to help free the trapped Americans.

In real life, the plan worked smoothly, but the movie adds phony obstacles to the escape. As the suspense intensified, it became increasingly obvious that many of these suspense-laden plot points were simply made up. The story was turned into a kind of standard Hollywood formula and it lost credibility because of that. There wasn't much in the story that was unexpected. The real story wasn't as suspenseful, but it was probably more interesting.

The decision by the filmmakers to force this story into a standard Hollywood formula is unfortunate. It certainly weakened the factual edge that the movie might have had otherwise. It also meant that less time in the movie is available for character development. The film works as a kind of escape caper movie, but perhaps it could have been more. This film rates a B.

Click here for links to places to buy or rent this movie in digital formats, or to buy the soundtrack, posters, books, even used videos, games, electronics and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

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Copyright © 2012 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at my last name at lariat dot org. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]

(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)