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Updated on February 11, 2013

Iran Hostage Crisis 1979 (ABC News Report)


Director: Ben Affleck

Writers: Joshuah Bearman, Tony Mendez, Chris Terrio

Cast: Alan Arkin, Ben Affleck, Bryan Cranston, John Goodman, Victor Garber, Tate Donovan, Clea DuVall, Scoot McNairy, Rory Cochrane, Christopher Denham, Kyle Chandler, Kerry Bishé, Chris Messina, Zeljko Ivanek, Titus Welliver

Synopsis: A dramatization of the 1980 joint CIA-Canadian secret operation to extract six fugitive American diplomatic personnel out of revolutionary Iran.

MPAA Rating: Rated R for language and some violent images

President Jimmy Carter - Statement on Iran Rescue Mission

Iranian Hostage Crisis Rescue - The Real Story Behind Ben Affleck's Argo Re-Writing America's Role

The movie was fake. The mission was real.

It's often said that the truth is stranger than fiction. In the case of "Argo", that definitely seems to ring true. Set back in the early 1980's, there was a hostage situation over in Iran. Six American diplomatic personnel members managed to escape capture, by hiding out in the Canadian Embassy; without the Iranian government's knowledge. Now, the CIA has to come up with a plan to rescue them before they're discovered; while covertly avoiding an international incident.

With all options considered, the CIA went with the best bad idea they had to get those people out safely. What was this bad idea you ask? It's simple. They made a dummy production studio, and planned a fake movie to fool the people of Iran that they're merely part of a filming crew; when in reality they're not. Although I know this type of plot sounds almost too Hollywood to be true, but surprisingly all these events actually happened.

Granted, like most films that are based on real life stories and/or events, there's always going to be some liberties taken; along with quite a few things that'll end up getting exaggerated for dramatic effect. Therefore, why should we expect "Argo" to be any different?

Although there were other factors involved in the real life mission that took place, back in the 1980's, "Argo" chooses to emphasize the rescue efforts of the CIA, and Hollywood's participation, predominantly. Sure, there's brief mention about Canada's involvement, and the dangers that Ambassador Ken Taylor and his wife had to put up with; considering that they were in danger each day of harboring the Americans to begin with.

However, the main focus was on CIA operative, Tony Mendez (Ben Affleck), who plays the role of workaholic father figure that means well, but he's currently separated from his wife and son. It's never revealed exactly why he's separated from them, in the film, but it's sort of implied that it has a lot to do with his job.

Whatever the case may be, Tony plays our protagonist in this film, who not only risks his life to save the six American diplomatic employees, but he also devises the whole operation as well. Although many of his CIA colleagues find his plan to be insane, but is it so crazy that it might just work?

But to pull off such a clever deception, Tony contacts Hollywood make up artist, John Chambers (John Goodman), for help; while also introducing him to a producing big shot named Lester Siegel (Alan Arkin). Together, they all try to make the Iranian government, along with the rest of the world, think they're making a movie called "Argo"; even though it's really a cover for the real mission at hand.

However, could this idea possibly backfire though? I mean who in their right mind would fall for such a trick like this? Or maybe this idea could be so crazy that it just might work? As I mentioned earlier, certain events were exaggerated for dramatic effect. Therefore, if you're expecting this movie to be a hundred percent accurate to the events that happened during the Iranian hostage situation, then you'll end up being severely disappointed.

Having said all that though, how does "Argo" stand on it's own as a film? Quite well to be honest. Although my only real gripe about the movie is that you don't really get much of an emotional connection to the main protagonist, Tony Mendez (Ben Affleck), in this film. Granted, we're given enough back story to know who he is, but it's never enough to where you can feel yourself even rooting for his character.

It doesn't ruin the movie by any means, but it's worth pointing out. As for the rest of the movie, I have to say it was very interesting to watch. Unlike Ben Affleck's previous film, "The Town", "Argo" blends a mixture of suspense thriller, drama and a bit of comedy into it's story; without compromising the effect of making the audience feel the struggle and fears these American diplomats went through.

For instance, when the film shifts to show Tony try to put together a fake movie, we see a comical look at Hollywood; courtesy of Lester Siegel (Alan Arkin), the fast talking Hollywood producer. One scene for example, Lester and Tony try to get their fake script approved by the WGA, which results in a hilarious scene where Alan Arkin brings a sly sense of humor to the movie.

However, when the movie shifts back to the CIA, and the situation in Iran, "Argo" takes a quick shift in tone. Granted, for most filmmakers this shift in sudden tone might be hard to pull off, but Ben Affleck seems to make it look easy. If anything, I tend to wonder why Ben Affleck was snubbed out of "Best Director" at this year's Oscars, as he certainly deserved it for this film.

Although I wouldn't say "Argo" was the best movie that I've seen from 2012, but it's definitely one of the most entertaining ones nonetheless, at a rating of three and a half out four.


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