This is not another impassioned plea for a U. S. release of Space Battleship Yamato.  This is a rare, opening day, review of the historical drama starring and directed by Ben Affleck.  Due mostly to Daredevil, it is common in the circles I travel to dislike Ben.  It’s fair to say I buck some trends just for spite, but I genuinely like him.  This movie is one more reason to.

Argo is “loosely based on” the true story of the Iran Hostage Crisis from 1979 to 1981.  It is not, specifically, about the 52 members of the U.S. Embassy staff held in Tehran for 444 days, but about a covert mission to extract 6 of their coworkers who evaded capture on the first day.  Sheltered amid great peril by the Canadian consulate, these 6 were eventually exfiltrated by collaboration of the three most technologically advanced nations in North America: Canada, the United States, and Hollywood.

“Darkly comedic suspense” is the typical critic description.  The only thing dark about the comedy is the events happening around it.  The comedy flows naturally.  The suspense is equally organic.  Despite being mostly set in the Middle East during a fairly violent time, the movie is very quiet.  This allows the actors, and not some explosion filled gun battle, to be the focus of the film.  There is a ludicrous, climactic chase scene, of course; Argo is still a Hollywood product.

There are a lot of things to love about this film.  I’ve mentioned the acting.  Ben Affleck plays against type pulling off what he should have done with Jack Ryan, as a believable, professional, CIA operative.  Bryan Cranston… c’mon have you seen Breaking Bad?  Bryan Cranston is awesome.  John Goodman delivers up to expectation as an FX makeup artist and “company” confidant.  I should point out my expectations of John Goodman are pretty high.  Alan Arkin, as the producer of the titular film within the film…  If I ever write a movie scene where one character tells another to “go fuck yourself,” just go ahead and cast Alan Arkin now.

At the core of the exfiltration plan is a cover story about making a science fiction film shot in an exotic location.  To strengthen the cover story, a cast of actors read the script for the press, in costume—“classic” costumes reused from late ‘70s-early ‘80s Sci-Fi TV and Movies.

The movie was shot blown up to make it look grainy and ‘70s like.  Argo doesn’t just look period appropriate, it feels it.  And that’s the best accomplishment of any film, to evoke feeling from the audience.  We really feel the tension and danger of the situation, even knowing it will eventually be “all right.”

As for the ludicrous chase at the end of the movie, the escape was narrow enough without Iranian militants drag racing against a 747 all the way to the barriers (185 knots at V2 on a 13 thousand foot runway).  Feel free to ignore that scene, there’s no way it happened.