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Critic's pick: 'Argo' ratchets up the suspense

The movie from director Ben Affleck and screenwriter Chris Terrio has finely tuned timing. Excellent pacing and strong acting keep nerves on edge.

October 31, 2012
  • Ben Affleck stars in "Argo."
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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