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FAQ for
Argo (2012) More at IMDbPro »

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FAQ Contents


A Note Regarding Spoilers

The following FAQ entries may contain spoilers. Only the biggest ones (if any) will be covered with spoiler tags. Spoiler tags have been used sparingly in order to make the page more readable.

For detailed information about the amounts and types of (a) sex and nudity, (b) violence and gore, (c) profanity, (d) alcohol, drugs, and smoking, and (e) frightening and intense scenes in this movie, consult the IMDb Parents Guide for this movie. The Parents Guide for Argo can be found here.

Kerry said: This movie is based on the Canadian Caper that took place during the Iran hostage crisis in 1979 and 1980. The 'Canadian Caper' was the popular name given to the joint covert rescue by the Government of Canada and the USA's Central Intelligence Agency of six American diplomats who evaded capture during the seizure of the United States embassy in Tehran, Iran and taking of embassy personnel as hostages by the Iranians on November 4, 1979. Lauren said: More specifically, Argo is based on the book "The Master of Disguise" byTony Mendez.

According to former US President Jimmy Carter, whose administration had to authorize the CIA's part of this whole operation, this film is a dramatized Hollywood exaggeration of the agency's role in the extraction when in reality "90 percent of the contribution to the ideas and consummation of the plan was Canadian." Source. To be fair, there is an older Canadian TV Movie, Escape from Iran: The Canadian Caper (1981), that essentially dramatizes the cover story that had to exclude the CIA's role entirely because it was still kept a secret at the time.

No, the British Embassy actually sheltered them before moving them on to the Canadians where they could blend in better with their accents and which was not also under threat of being stormed in just the same manner as the American Embassy was. The New Zealand Embassy also gave help including smuggling the group to the airport for their escape.

Yes, in the early 50s the Iranian Prime Minister nationalised his countries' oil wealth causing Britain and the US to fear that this was the first step to Iran becoming a communist ally of the Soviet Union as many post-colonial countries had during the Cold War. Given Iran's huge oil reserves and geographical domination of the Persian Gulf, this would have been a disaster for the West. So, with British and US help, the Shah seized power going from a constitutional to an absolute monarch. The Shah's reign was dictatorial with his ruthless secret police (SAVAK) suppressing all dissent but in many ways very progressive, e.g., recognizing Israel, advancing women's rights, education, and the economy including land reform. Unfortunately, native resentment of the Shah and his Western supporters led to his government's overthrow in 1979 (when he was abroad for cancer treatment) and the rise of the Islamic Fundamentalists soon afterward that instituted a government notorious for its own brutality and reactionary social policies. The Academy Award nominated animated feature film, Persepolis (2007) presents one Iranian's view of life in Iran during this period.

How did the embassy fall?

The storming of an embassy was practically unheard of, even during the World Wars. The CIA had practically no agents in Iran as it was considered a staunch US ally and therefore not a worthwhile target for espionage. At the time it was unclear what sort of new regime would emerge in post-revolution Iran so America maintained her embassy in Tehran in the hope of forging friendly links with the new government. Instead the entire diplomatic staff were taken prisoner and Iran demanded that in return for their freedom the US unfreeze Iranian financial assets abroad, apologise for past meddling in their country's affairs and return the Shah who was undergoing treatment for cancer in the US to their custody.

In real life the narrow escape at the airport didn't actually happen. In the context of the film it can be reasoned that stopping the Swissair flight would have created a diplomatic incident and the Iranian revolutionaries would not have wished to anger Switzerland which had much of Iran's oil wealth secreted in its banks by the Shah. It could also be construed that the guards at the airport might be reluctant to publicize to their superiors that they had allowed the Americans escape.

Following the escape of the Americans hiding in the Canadian consulate the US military attempted a rescue by force of the remaining 52 hostages, spearheaded by the newly formed Delta Force. However the helicopters involved ran into a severe dust-storm which disabled several and caused the mission to be aborted. This mishap would be compounded by tragedy when 2 of the aircraft being used collided killing 8 of the rescue force. All the hostages would be released in early 1981 as the Shah had by then died and Iran was engaged in a war with Saddam Hussein's Iraq and desperate for its frozen assets abroad to be freed in order to fund it.

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