Movie Review - 'Argo' - A Rescue Mission With Real Hollywood Thrills Ben Affleck's new film chronicles the CIA's rescue of six U.S. Embassy workers held hostage during the 1979 Iranian revolution. Critic Bob Mondello says the fine balance struck between Argo's snappy script and heart-stopping thrills makes the film worthy of Oscar buzz. (Recommended)
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'Argo': A Rescue Mission With Real Hollywood Style

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'Argo': A Rescue Mission With Real Hollywood Style

Review

Movies

'Argo': A Rescue Mission With Real Hollywood Style

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ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel. Ben Affleck's new thriller, "Argo," chronicles a secret CIA rescue mission. The details were classified for years. And when they came to light, the operation sounded like something only Hollywood could come up with. Critic Bob Mondello says, there's a reason.

BOB MONDELLO, BYLINE: 1979, the Iranian public's hatred for their U.S.-installed shah erupts when he leaves the country. A crowd grows around our embassy in Tehran - climbing the gates, taking dozens of Americans hostage.

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MONDELLO: Shocked the Canadian ambassador in Tehran, too, who finds himself secretly sheltering six escaped U.S. embassy workers in his residence. Now, how to get them out? The best idea the State Department's come up with...

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MONDELLO: ...involves pedaling 300 miles to the border, in the snow. The CIA's Tony Mendez has a slightly less-outlandish thought.

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MONDELLO: A quick hop to Hollywood, where a makeup guy - played by John Goodman - is helping him recast his six embassy clerks as a plausible film crew.

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MONDELLO: He's thinking...

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: (as John Chambers) ...with credits...

MONDELLO: ...slight squint...

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MONDELLO: ...face is falling...

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MONDELLO: So he takes Tony to meet with just the guy - who's played by Alan Arkin, and who has his own doubts.

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MONDELLO: Sounds crazier with each retelling, no? But he agrees, so it's back to Washington for approval.

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MONDELLO: And the tough stuff begins. You can hear that the script is snappy. But the real accomplishment here is how Ben Affleck, who both stars in and directs "Argo," manages to segue from "Ocean's Eleven"-style repartee to pulse-pounding tension and back again. His CIA agent arrives in Tehran to find executed bodies swinging from construction cranes; cars on fire; mobs in the street; and six Americans who are both afraid to leave their hiding place, and sketchy on the aliases they have barely 24 hours to learn.

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MONDELLO: Affleck builds "Argo" to a heart-stopping finale, which is heightened a bit from what actually happened. But as the credits roll, he establishes just how artfully the film has blended truth and fiction by using words from President Jimmy Carter, and side-by-side photos of the real folks and the actors. By its final fade, "Argo" feels like more than a thriller, with real thrills and serious Oscar buzz. It feels like a window on events that led to the world that we live in now.

I'm Bob Mondello.

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