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Critic’s pick: ‘Argo’ ratchets up the suspense

Critic’s pick: ‘Argo’ ratchets up the suspense
Ben Affleck stars in “Argo.”
(Claire Folger, Warner Bros.)

Tick, tick, tick. You can almost hear that lethal sound in director Ben Affleck’s explosive drama “Argo.” You can certainly feel the clock running out in this rare based-on-a-true-life story that manages to keep hold of its stomach-churning suspense until the end. Affleck as a CIA operative-pseudo filmmaker, Alan Arkin as a fake movie studio head and John Goodman as the make-up artist are the central brain trust trying to pull off an insane scam to sneak a handful of U.S. diplomatic personnel out of Iran after the 1979 take-over of the embassy. The way in which things go wrong — at the worst possible time for the real subjects and the best possible time for the filmmaker — keep upping the ante. Though the truth (and a Joshuah Bearman article) provided the stranger-than-fiction blueprint, screenwriter Chris Terrio’s script is a model of tightly crafted timing. Add in nerve-racking pacing and excellently on-edge actors and you are in nail-biting territory.

— Betsy Sharkey


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