Ben Affleck’s Argo Has an Amazing True Story, Even More Amazing Eyewear

Slate's Culture Blog
May 8 2012 5:13 PM

Trailer Critic: Ben Affleck’s Argo

John Goodman plays John Chambers in Argo.

Still from the trailer for Argo.

The trailer for Ben Affleck’s Argo has just about everything you could ask for: A true-life spy story born of Hollywood and Middle Eastern conflict, a great cast, even better spectacles. That cast includes Affleck, Bryan Cranston, Alan Arkin, John Goodman, and terrific character actors like Richard Kind and Philip Baker Hall, and the eyeglasses, well—you’ll just have to see those for yourself:

I’ve written before about the cinematic power of great 1970s period eyewear, fully on display here. But the most intriguing aspect of Argo is the bizarre true story it’s based on. Adapted from Joshuah Bearman’s 2007 Wired article, Argo depicts how the Central Intelligence Agency invented a fake science-fiction flick to rescue six Americans from Iran. That sci-fi flick was called Argo, and the fake production was convincing enough that it got written up in Variety and The Hollywood Reporter—here's the fake movie’s very real poster.

Affleck, who also directs, stars as Tony Mendez, the CIA operative who masterminded the plan. The real-life Mendez assumed the made-up identity of Kevin Costa Harkins, an Irish film producer who recruited John Chambers (played here by John Goodman), a makeup artist who worked on Star Trek and won a special Oscar for Planet of the Apes, to help set up their phony Hollywood production company (“Studio Six Productions,” named after the six endangered Americans).

Argo is Affleck’s third feature after Gone Baby Gone and The Town—neither a masterpiece, but both solid genre pictures infused with wit, moral complexity, and a sense of place. Here he brings the bushy beard last seen at the end of The Town along with some Scorsese-style rapid dolly-in and tracking shots courtesy of cinematographer—and longtime Alejandro González Iñárritu collaborator—Rodrigo Prieto.

The trailer’s editing is as stylish as its eyeglasses and moustaches—with just one off-note. While the ’70s-funk bass early on signals that the movie is both a period drama and a sort of Ocean’s Eleven-style caper, the subsequent use of “Dream On” feels like a bit much. The titles, though, are a clever touch: Presented in the style of shredded documents, they emphasize how the specifics of the story were long classified, with the smudges of ink one last period detail.

Grade: B+

Previously from the Trailer Critic
Ferrell vs. Galifianakis in The Campaign
Beasts of the Southern Wild
The Dark Knight Rises
John Hillcoat’s Lawless
Judd Apatow’s This Is 40
Woody Allen’s To Rome with Love
Tim Burton’s Dark Shadows
On the Road
Steven Soderbergh’s Magic Mike

Forrest Wickman is a Slate staff writer. 



Meet the New Bosses

How the Republicans would run the Senate.

The Government Is Giving Millions of Dollars in Electric-Car Subsidies to the Wrong Drivers

Scotland Is Just the Beginning. Expect More Political Earthquakes in Europe.

Cheez-Its. Ritz. Triscuits.

Why all cracker names sound alike.

Friends Was the Last Purely Pleasurable Sitcom

The Eye

This Whimsical Driverless Car Imagines Transportation in 2059

Medical Examiner

Did America Get Fat by Drinking Diet Soda?  

A high-profile study points the finger at artificial sweeteners.

The Afghan Town With a Legitimately Good Tourism Pitch

A Futurama Writer on How the Vietnam War Shaped the Series

  News & Politics
Sept. 21 2014 11:34 PM People’s Climate March in Photos Hundreds of thousands of marchers took to the streets of NYC in the largest climate rally in history.
Business Insider
Sept. 20 2014 6:30 AM The Man Making Bill Gates Richer
Sept. 20 2014 7:27 AM How Do Plants Grow Aboard the International Space Station?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 19 2014 4:58 PM Steubenville Gets the Lifetime Treatment (And a Cheerleader Erupts Into Flames)
  Slate Plus
Tv Club
Sept. 21 2014 1:15 PM The Slate Doctor Who Podcast: Episode 5  A spoiler-filled discussion of "Time Heist."
Brow Beat
Sept. 21 2014 2:00 PM Colin Farrell Will Star in True Detective’s Second Season
Future Tense
Sept. 19 2014 6:31 PM The One Big Problem With the Enormous New iPhone
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 22 2014 5:30 AM MAVEN Arrives at Mars
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.