What a story! It’s so bizarre it must be true. Argo reveals a secret chapter in American and Canadian intelligence, the kind of wild tale that comes along every once in a while and takes your breath away.
Ben Affleck who stars as the CIA agent, who came up with the daredevil plan of the film, also does a masterful job of directing the unbelievable story of the so called “Canadian Caper”.
In 1979 the US sheltered the Shah of Iran following the revolution in that country, which didn’t sit well with the new extremist regime under the Ayatollah Khomeini. They wanted The Shah in Iran to face trial for abuses during his reign, which was brokered by the US in 1953.
Following the revolution, Americans in Iran were persona non grata and targeted when President Carter refused to cave into terrorist demands for blood. On November 4, Islamic militants stormed the US consulate in Teheran looking for Americans.
Six staffers fled out of the back door and found safe haven at the Canadian Embassy after being turned away from several others. Canadian Ambassador Ken Taylor kept them safe in his home and other locations in the city for 444 days during which time the CIA enlisted its disguise and exfiltration expert, Tony Mendez, who cooked up a the scheme to get them out.
His crazy, far reaching plan was put in place, spanning producers’ offices in Hollywood, the Pentagon, the White House and the Canadian Embassy in Iran. The six hostages were to pose as Canadian filmmakers scouting Iran for shooting locations for a Star Wars type of sci-fi adventure film. The tension builds fast and hard once the preps are underway.
Set in the seventies, classic seventies film style Affleck shot it in classic seventies style, achieving a grainy, newsy vibe that adds to the tension and realism. He was reportedly inspired by the look and feel of seventies films especially All the President’s Men. Affleck has a great sense of the dramatic build and by the film’s you’re positively breathless.
The large supporting cast is interesting and diverse, Brian Cranston, John Goodman, Alan Arkin, Tate Donovan, Clea DuVall, Kyle Chandler, Zeljko Ivanek, Farshad Farahat and Sheila Vand who plays the housemaid at the Canadian Embassy who knows what’s going on and makes a dangerous decision to save lives.
Amidst the intense drama is the comic relief in the Hollywood chapters. Arkin and Goodman, who play a veteran producer and the Oscar wining makeup artist John Chambers, who had worked on Star Wars and took part in the Argo mission, open a fake studio lot office. They start to pitch, publicize and sell Argo, the fake movie, to create the appearance of the need for location scouts.
A heart stopping sequence of them being delayed in getting to the office by another production is nothing short of brilliant. The phone inside is ringing, the call on which the story turns.
That’s the thing about the film. It is rich with heart stopping sequences, a wildly entertaining dramatization of an already dramatic event, and it’s almost certain much of what we see never happened, but boy what a ride.
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35mm action thriller
Written by Chris Terrio, Joshuah Bearman
Directed by Ben Affleck
Opens Oct. 12
Runtime: 120 minutes
MPAA: Rated R for language and some violent images
Language: English, Farsi