Acting under the cover of a Hollywood producer scouting a location for a science fiction film, a CIA agent launches a dangerous operation to rescue six Americans in Tehran during the U.S. hostage crisis in Iran in 1980.
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In 1979, the American embassy in Iran was invaded by Iranian revolutionaries and several Americans were taken hostage. However, six managed to escape to the official residence of the Canadian Ambassador and the CIA was ordered to get them out of the country. With few options, exfiltration expert Tony Mendez devised a daring plan: create a phony Canadian film project looking to shoot in Iran and smuggle the Americans out as its production crew. With the help of some trusted Hollywood contacts, Mendez created the ruse and proceeded to Iran as its associate producer. However, time was running out with the Iranian security forces closing in on the truth while both his charges and the White House had grave doubts about the operation themselves. Written by
Kenneth Chisholm (email@example.com)
Alan Arkin has admitted that, although his Lester Siegel is a composite character, he based his character essentially on the late movie mogul Jack L. Warner who died shortly before the actual hostage crisis. See more »
Early in the movie, when Tony Mendez visits the headquarters of the US State Department, he passes a window containing a row of flags. Of these flags, several belong to countries that did not exist in 1980, most notably the flag of Russia. See more »
This is the Persian Empire known today as Iran. For 2,500 years, this land was ruled by a series of kings, known as shahs. In 1950, the people of Iran elected Mohammad Mossadeqh, a secular democrat, as Prime Minister. He nationalized British and U.S. petroleum holdings, returning Iran's oil to it's people. But in 1953, the U.S. and Great Britain engineered a coup d'etat that deposed Mossadeqh and installed Reza Pahlavi as shah. The young Shah was known for opulence and ...
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The movie opens with the 1970s-era Warner Bros. slash logo that eventually became the logo of Warner Music, which was designed by Saul Bass, instead of the traditional shield logo. However, the corporate copy below the logo refers to Time Warner, the current incarnation of Warner Communications since 1990, in the same typeface that was used decades ago. See more »
A Tight, Suspenseful Dramatization of the Canadian Caper
I'm admittedly pretty late to the Ben Affleck/director bandwagon. His first film, GONE BABY GONE, went under my radar and I passed on THE TOWN because I wasn't interested in another heist film. He's been collecting praise for his directing efforts for years but it wasn't until ARGO that I actually sat down and watched one of his movies. The premise was one that had grabbed my attention since originally reading about the Canadian Caper in an article on Cracked.com. The movie is based on actual events, but I'm not knowledgeable enough in subject to tell you what's accurate and what isn't. So it's safe to say that I watched this as a movie for entertainment and not as a propaganda piece for America or the CIA, as some have appeared to view it. ARGO is the tale of six staff members for the U.S. embassy in Tehran, Iran during a tumultuous time in which citizens of the country were rioting over the United States' involvement in providing asylum for the former Iranian Shah while he sought treatment for cancer. The riots soon grow out of hand and enraged Iranian civilians overrun the embassy, taking its staff of 52 hostage. Six Americans escaped during the fray and find sanctuary with the Canadian ambassador in his home. The clock is ticking and the U.S. is worried that the Iranians will discover the escapees, so the CIA becomes involved in forming a plan to retrieve them. Enter CIA agent Tony Mendez (Affleck) with a plan to enter Iran and walk the Americans right out through a commercial airport under the guise of a location scout for a Canadian film crew. It's one of those "so crazy, it has to work" scenarios.
ARGO is good. Best Picture good? Maybe. There might have been more deserving movies in 2012 but I don't feel that ARGO ruined any lives by walking away with the award. It's an incredibly good film that manages to grab its audience on an emotional level, and it tells an amazing story. Regardless of how it's portrayed in the film, the events depicted in the movie happened in one sense of another: the Iranians raged at the United States, 52 embassy staff were taken as hostages for a grueling 444 days, and six escapees were aided in escaping the country as a Canadian film crew. That alone is an incredible tale. This is Ben Affleck's vision of the events and, yes, they are very America-centric. You sort of have to expect that from an American film. Once you overlook that and just absorb ARGO as a piece of entertainment, it succeeds. Affleck does an excellent job of ratcheting up the suspense in the film. These characters are in a dangerously tight spot and you feel for them. They're terrified, paranoid, and never know if the next day will be their last. There is a scene in the middle of the movie where Mendez, in an effort to solidify their cover story, must take the six escapees into Tehran's bazaar where all eyes are on them after a few mere hours to try and learn their false identities. It's tense. Even knowing that everything turns out all right in the end, it's tense. I'd say that makes for a successful film.
I also loved the alternating vibes of the film. The scenes in Iran are taut and ominous. We're treated to multiple scenes emphasizing the rampant anti-American sentiment and the dangerous conditions. The scenes in Hollywood are loud and boisterous, with mansions, glamorous parties, and a soundtrack including Van Halen and the Dire Straits. The only instance of Western music once we're in Iran is an excellent use of Led Zeppelin's "When the Levee Breaks", used perfectly to reflect the tension as the American's celebrate the night before their big escape while Mendez is confronted with the possibility of abandoning the mission and leaving them behind. Back in America, everything is a bit more light-hearted with John Goodman and Alan Arkin portraying the Hollywood connections that helped Mendez create a fake movie from scratch and pass it off as a legitimate venture to fool the Iranians. Goodman and Arkin are a couple of scene-stealers and provide a bit of levity to break up the gloom of the Iranian situation.
If I have any complaint about the movie, I guess it would be that I was underwhelmed with the ending. The big climactic scene in Iranian airport where the Americans are within reach of freedom is a little too forced. The cuts between the Mendez and the escapees, the Iranian police, and the CIA offices felt as if they were trying a bit too hard to make it suspenseful. Still, I suppose it got the job done. ARGO is a fine movie and probably ranks somewhere in my top ten best for 2012.
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