Argo (2012), written by Chris Terrio, won Best Adapted Screenplay at the 85th Academy Awards.
So much has been said about the movie I don’t feel I can add too much to the conversation. The script reads well, but it certainly isn’t anything out of this world. There are confusing points, areas where the action lines are too long, and dialogue that just doesn’t hit.
But the script works, which is the most important point. The protagonist is likeable. The story contains major suspense. And there is enough conflict to keep the first two acts interesting.
Being half-Iranian, I was intrigued by the plot. For those that are not familiar, the US is home to a pretty big portion of the Iranian Diaspora, many fleeing around the time of the 1979 Revolution, when the evens in the screenplay take place. Interestingly, Los Angeles is home to the largest population of Iranians, at 138,000. Many Iranians in the US are Pro-Shah. But even as the Shah was portrayed negatively in the screenplay and VERY negatively in the film, I cannot recall any sort of boycott from the Iranian community.
And let’s be honest, it’s an interesting story: A CIA agent risking his life to save six trapped Americans in Iran. The stakes? Obviously high. To increase the conflict, Terrio focused on infighting within the CIA and federal government bureaucracy; to the point that the plane tickets needed for the escape attempt only come through at the last moment. And that’s where the script shines: Act 3; escaping from Iran.
But interestingly, I felt the film did a much better job holding suspense than the screenplay. For example, the bearded soldier at the airport gate looks menacing during the film, but in the screenplay he is portrayed as smarter and more professional (not the best word). It’s really difficult to hold suspense for long periods of time through writing and is something I will be focusing on in my future studies.
A likable CIA agent? Check. Helpless people (the opposite of the agent) stuck in Iran? Check. Two people making fun of the Hollywood film industry? Check. Oblivious government hacks? Check.
Ohh, and scary brown-skinned people looking to annihilate Americans? Check.
Dialogue & Pacing
Flowed pretty well. The dialogue was a bit hard to follow at times. Some late 70s pop culture references that only old-school Hollywood buffs would be familiar with. And last but not least, Argo Fuck Yourself.
I definitely felt the script was thrilling. It didn’t exactly resonate with me. Mendez, the main character, is obviously heroic, but I didn’t quite relate to him. In fairness, he would be about 15 years older than me. I never understood why he felt compelled to risk his life for the mission (before he went to Iran) when his family meant so much to him.
Best Part of The Script
The two Hollywood execs, John Chambers and Lester Siegel, obviously stole the show. As noted, the climax was thrilling, even if it was not historically accurate.