Reviewed by: Russell Emory
difficulties of international diplomacy
covert rescue mission
Wired 2007 article: How the CIA Used a Fake Sci-Fi Flick to Rescue Americans from Tehran
bravery, courage, self-sacrifice for others
Iran’s former name was Persia.
Ben Affleck … Tony Mendez
Bryan Cranston … Jack O’Donnell
Alan Arkin … Lester Siegel
John Goodman … John Chambers
Victor Garber … Ken Taylor
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|Distributor||Warner Bros. Pictures|
“The movie was fake. The mission was real.”
On November 4, 1979, Iranian protesters stormed the American Embassy in Tehran taking everybody inside hostage, or so they thought. Six Americans were able to escape and find sanctuary with the Canadian ambassador. “Argo” is the story of how the CIA got these six out of Iran.
Ben Affleck pulls double-duty in “Argo” as actor/director. The film also stars John Goodman, Bryan Cranston, and Alan Arkin. Many of the supporting characters are played by recognizable actors and actresses, but those four get the top billing. The film is also produced by Affleck with George Clooney and Grant Heslov and the script written by Chris Terrio. The film is based on the books Master of Disguise by Tony Mendez and The Great Escape by Joshua Bearman. Also, inspiration is taken from the 2007 Wired article “How the CIA Used a Fake Sci-Fi Flick to Rescue Americans from Tehran,” also by Bearman.
I go into all of this background information on this film in order to show the reader that the filmmakers have done their homework. The film also has inspired me to read and research the incidents portrayed in this film. This is a piece of modern history that many who will see this film will remember—and remember very well.
“Argo” begins with a brief synopsis of the country we now call Iran from the days of the Persian Empire to the time of the opening of the movie. The Shah has been granted asylum in the US, and the Ayatollah has taken power. Many Iranian protesters have gathered outside the US Embassy in Tehran to protest the return of the Shah. so he can stand trial for his crimes against Iran.
As many people who have had a basic class in US History know, the protesters storm the compound and take everyone inside hostage. Six members of the staff escape out a backdoor and are given refuge in the home of the Canadian Ambassador.
Word has leaked to the US of the six’s escape and plans begin to be drawn up by the CIA and state department to get them out. Jack O’Donnell (Cranston) who works for the CIA brings in Tony Mendez (Affleck) to advise on the extraction. After hearing a ridiculous scenario where they give the six bikes to ride to the border, Mendez returns home to call his son.
During his conversation with his son, they begin to watch a “Planet of the Apes” movie over the phone together. Mendez gets the idea for the extraction to take place as the six, seven with Mendez, are a Canadian film crew scouting locations for a “Star Wars” like sci-fi film. This is where make-up and FX artist John Chambers (Goodman) and Producer Lester Seigel (Arkin) come in. They set up a fake studio with a fake script to legitimize the back story for the extraction. The idea is pitched to the Secretary of State (Phillip Baker Hall), and the operation is a go.
The movie is rated R. The “f” word is used upwards of 25 times, the “s” word is used 10 times, and both Jesus’ and God’s name are both used 4 times, each as explicatives with God’s name used with the “d” word. There is, of course, violence at the beginning, but it is relatively mild and more of peril than extreme. There are a couple of disturbing images in the film, like a man hung from a construction crane and a man dragged from his home and shot. There is heavy smoking in the movie and some drinking. There is relatively no sex in the movie, but there is a scene where a couple of actresses are wearing what amount to showgirl outfits, but they are briefly shown.
There is some spiritual content. Iran is a Muslim country, so there is exposure to that religion, but no real explanation behind their beliefs. There is also a scene where Mendez looks up as if saying, “Thank You God,” in relief.
This is a film that I will both recommend and not recommend. If you are someone who is very easily offended, STAY AWAY! The language in is foul, and it is throughout the film. Do NOT see this movie if you are offended by language, simply do not. If you can deal with the language, then I would recommend this film to you, and I will explain why.
The movie is excellent. Affleck has found his knack as a director. I would not be surprised if he receives an Academy Award nomination for the film. In order to make the film feel like it was shot in the late 70s/early 80s, Affleck shot the movie on film and cut the frames in half and blew up the images 200% to increase the graininess of the film. The film uses actual news footage from the Iran Hostage Crisis in 1979-1980, intercut with the footage shot by Affleck and his crew. This movie was just well made, all around.
The story is well paced, and the actors are extremely believable. Affleck’s character is very dry, and the chemistry between Affleck and Arkin is very good, as is Affleck’s with Cranston and Goodman. There is a scene between Arkin and Affleck that really stood out that I would like to tell my readers about, and then I will let those of you who want to see this movie go.
Mendez and Seigel are sharing lunch on one of the studio sets. Mendez asks Seigel about his family. Seigel tells about his daughters and how he and his wife are divorced. Seigel reveals that the lies and crassness that he uses as a producer infiltrated his home life, and he could not separate the two. Mendez’s face tells all. He has the same problem and wants to work out the issues with his wife for his son. The scene just really stands out to me as a profound scene, and I wonder just how many of us have those same issues in our lives. It is just one really good scene in a well made movie
Violence: Heavy / Profanity: Extreme / Sex/Nudity: Moderate
See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.