ARGO (Ben Affleck). A Warner Bros. release. 121 minutes. Opens Friday (October 12). See times. Rating: NNNN
At the height of the Iranian hostage crisis of 1979-80, CIA exfiltration expert Tony Mendez goes to Tehran to rescue six American diplomats hiding at the Canadian embassy, posing as a Canadian producer scouting locations for a non-existent Star Wars knock-off called Argo.
Directing and starring as Mendez, Ben Affleck spins the absurd true story into an engrossing espionage thriller that would be utterly ridiculous if the stakes weren't literally life-or-death. The characters are drawn crisply and without affectation - Affleck lets the terrible 70s hair and wardrobe do lots of work - and I'd put money on his having done at least a couple of passes on Chris Terrio's script, which now sports the same mordant dialogue and fondness for dramatic contrast as Gone Baby Gone and The Town.
Argo gets great mileage out of every scene in which the super-serious Washington players (among them Bryan Cranston, Zeljko Ivanek and Titus Welliver) bristle at the bullshit posturing of the Hollywood types (John Goodman, Alan Arkin) they've enlisted to give Mendez's project credibility.